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Teen driver will be arraigned Thursday; attorney says he'll plead 'not guilty,' is remorseful
A Lopez Island teen will be arraigned Thursday in Superior Court on charges related to the death of a jogger struck by the teen's car on Lopez Sound Road July 26.
Attorney Mark Kaiman of Lustick Law Firm in Bellingham said the boy will plead "not guilty." He said his client is "remorseful."
"This is a young boy — and he is a young boy, he's very much a kid — who's a leader at his school, a leader in athletics, he's good with academics," Kaiman said.
"His teachers support him, people in the community support him. This was a tragedy, not just for the man who was killed and not just for the child who was injured, but for him too. He's incredibly remorseful for this. He realizes his life has taken a turn, and he's incredibly remorseful about it and trying to get through it day by day. That's all he can do at this point."
Paul John Jaholkowsky, 26, of Abbotsford, B.C. was jogging southbound on the road about 2:30 p.m. when, according to authorities, he was struck head-on by a 1974 Chevy Nova driven by the 15-year-old Lopez boy, who was driving north at what is believed to be a high rate of speed.
Sheriff Bill Cumming said today that the car is believed to have been traveling about 70 mph when it struck Jaholkowsky; authorities believe Jaholkowsky died instantly and he was declared dead at the scene.
The driver had a 17-year-old friend in the front passenger seat. Neither teen was wearing a seat belt at the time of the collision, Cumming said.
Jaholkowsky had been visiting the island with a friend who, Cumming said, identified Jaholkowsky following the collision.
Moments before Jaholkowsky was struck, the came came up over a slight rise in the road and clipped a 7-year-old girl who was bicycling with her family, authorities said. She was flown to Harborview Medical Center; she lost part of a finger, Cumming said. The car then struck Jaholkowsky.
The driver lost control of the car, which slammed twice into an embankment before coming to a stop.
The 17-year-old passenger was taken to Harborview Medical Center; his head had struck the windshield and he was thrown from the vehicle when the sedan slammed into the embankment.
The 15-year-old driver was released to his parents after the collision.
Cumming said even though the 15-year-old boy had a learner’s permit, state law still prohibits him from driving solely with a chaperone 17 years of age. The car belongs to the 15-year-old's parents.
Neither alcohol or drugs appear to have played a role in the collision; Cumming said vehicle speed and inexperience are likely to blame.
Today, Cumming said the teen could be charged with vehicular homicide and assault, and possibly more serious homicide charges.
Kaiman said the boy is in school; the attorney said he hopes his client will be allowed to continue to attend school after the arraignment.
Kaiman said the boy and his family wanted to contact the families of Jaholkowsky and the girl but Kaiman advised against it, saying the families needed time to grieve. "It's something we anticipate. How we go about that, that will come in time."