Victim's mother forgives driver in deadly Wash. crash

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by HEATHER GRAF / KING 5 News

KREM.com

Posted on May 13, 2014 at 7:08 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 13 at 7:08 AM

A Port Orchard woman says she's forgiven the man charged in the December 2013 accident that killed her daughter.  Not only that, she pushed prosecutors to lessen the charges against him.

Theresa Bennett says not an hour goes by that she doesn't think about her daughter.

17-year-old Shanaia Bennett and her best friend, 18-year-old Rebekah Barrett, were killed in an accident less than a mile from Rebekah's house.

Police said Rebekah was driving the car with Shanaia and another girl inside.  They were allegedly racing another car on Baby Doll Road in Port Orchard.  That car was being driven by Rebekah's boyfriend, 20-year-old Robert Rundquist Jr.

Rundquist was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide after the crash.

"His going to jail and having a felony charge against him, whose life does that change," said Bennett. 

She says she knows in her heart that Rundquist is not the reason her daughter died that night.  In fact, she says, he tried to help both girls at the scene of the crash, and then ran to Rebekah's parents' house to alert that about what had happened.

When it came time to talk to prosecutors about the case, Theresa Bennett had made up her mind.

"We are owning the fact that our girls made this choice and we lost them," she said.  "And crucifying this young man is not going to bring our girls back, nor will it bring comfort to our families."

She pushed for prosecutors to lessen the charges against Rundquist.

Bennett and her husband also sat down with Rundquist himself.

"We met with him and got to see his state of mind," she said.  "He is carrying it, deep, it's sad, and yeah, it's for life."

On Monday, Rundquist pled guilty to two counts of hit and run, instead of the more serious vehicular homicide charges.

Prosecutors tell KING 5 the deal means he'll likely face a year in prison.

If Bennett had her way, she says Rundquist would've only been charged with misdemeanor reckless driving.  That had been her hope, but prosecutors wouldn't go that far.  She says was disappointed with their decision to still charge Rundquist with a felony.

Her hope is that he'll have the opportunity to have a future and make a life for himself, unlike her daughter.  She says the guilt he now deals with is punishment enough.

Rundquist's sentencing is set for June 23rd.

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