PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man accused of vehicular assault had his charge increased to vehicular homicide after a 71-year-old grandmother, airlifted to Harborview Medical Center following the wreck, died from her injuries.
Judith D. Brooker of Port Angeles died Feb. 1, Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Roberson said Friday.
Jesse Lee Zimmer, 30, had been charged with three counts of vehicular assault, Class B felonies, after a head-on collision shortly before 1 p.m. Nov. 24 in the 2000 block of East First Street in Port Angeles, according to the probable cause statement written by Port Angeles Police Officer Luke Brown.
In amended information filed Friday, one of the charges was replaced with vehicular homicide, a Class A felony.
Zimmer, a lifelong county resident, pleaded not guilty Friday. A status hearing is March 11 and a trial date set for April 5.
Zimmer’s lawyer, Alexandrea Schodowski, said it was unlikely the trial will be held on that date.
Zimmer had his bail increased from $20,000 to $75,000 by Clallam County Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart after Zimmer violated conditions of his release, failing two urinalysis exams by testing positive in January for the presence of amphetamine.
The Dodge Charger Zimmer was driving, which was owned by an acquaintance, according to the probable cause statement, collided with a Chevy HHR SUV occupied by Judith and James Brooker and a 6-year-old girl.
According to the probable cause statement, the girl and Judith Brooker were airlifted to Harborview with serious injuries.
Judith Brooker was in critical condition while James Brooker had broken ribs and a broken sternum, according to the probable cause statement.
Zimmer, who said he hit his head in the collision and was not hospitalized, tested positive for methamphetamine and opioids and was booked into the county jail for investigation of vehicular assault.
A witness said he saw the Charger swerve across the eastbound lane and a middle turn lane, narrowly missing the witness’ truck and colliding head-on with the Chevy.
A video from a nearby business showed Zimmer’s vehicle ran into the Chevy without slowing down.
Zimmer, who had a misdemeanor warrant out for his arrest and was driving while his license was suspended, said he had looked down at his cellphone before the crash, according to the probable cause statement.
When he looked up “the other car was right there in front of him, and he had no time to react,” he told Brown.
“While Zimmer was talking to me, his face appeared very pale and gaunt, and he was twitching, and could not stand at all,” Brown wrote.
“When I asked Zimmer to go through the events with me again, he seemed to forget what we were talking about, and I had to remind him that I needed to know about the collision he was just in.”
Roberson argued for $100,000 bail, saying Zimmer had greater incentive to flee with an upgraded charge, outstanding Clallam County and Tacoma warrants, and a history of failure to appear.
“How are we going to trust him to show up?” Roberson said.
Schodowski said increasing one charge to a Class A felony does not increase Zimmer’s intent to flee.
She said he is in treatment and has appeared for all of his court dates.
“He’s doing what he’s supposed to,” Schodowski said.
Barnhart asked her to address the issue of the urinalysis results.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Zimmer did have a relapse,” Schodowski replied.
“He understands what his conditions are, what he’s not allowed to do, and he’s serving his time in jail right because of his relapse and his mess-up.”
Roberson said the nature of the charge has changed and that Zimmer broke his promise not to use drugs.
“That increases the risk of releasing Mr. Zimmer,” he said.
“Mr. Zimmer’s relapses are costly to his fellow citizens.”
Brooker’s death “weighs heavily on everyone involved,” Barnhart said.
“There’s a significant leap when one considers a maximum penalty on Class B felony and a Class A felony.”
The maximum penalty for a Class B felony is 10 years and for a Class A felony life in prison.
“What the court is most inclined to consider today is the issue that arose out of District Court and the positive UA results,” he said.
“Relapse or otherwise, however you characterize it, it is a violation of this court’s order.
“Community safety does remain an issue for the court.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].