Tri-Cities fitness trainer admits hitting moped rider and not stopping to help the dying man

·4 min read

A Tri-Cities fitness trainer has changed her plea, admitting she hit and killed a man on a moped with her truck in 2018 after she’d been drinking.

A week before her trial was set to begin, Katie Summers, 32, pleaded guilty this week in the death of Leonel Z. Birrueta, 31.

The McDonald’s restaurant worker left behind a young daughter, a fiancée and numerous relatives and friends.

Summers was initially charged with two crimes, hit and run with death and vehicular homicide with two possibles alternatives of driving under the influence or with disregard for the safety of others.

She pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide with the disregard to safety and to a reduce charge of hit and run from a crash with injuries. Prosecutors filed a two-page explanation for the change.

Video obtained by Kennewick police showed Summers drinking saké at a sushi restaurant before she drove that night, but her blood alcohol concentration at the time of the crash could not be proven because of a delay in drawing a blood sample, according to court documents filed by prosecutors.

When police found her about 11 minutes after the crash, she smelled of alcohol but no field sobriety test was done then, according to documents.

It was another four hours before a blood sample was taken to measure the alcohol and marijuana in her system.

This roadside memorial in 2018 was near where Leonel Birrueta of Kennewick was killed on his moped at West Clearwater Avenue at Edison Street.
This roadside memorial in 2018 was near where Leonel Birrueta of Kennewick was killed on his moped at West Clearwater Avenue at Edison Street.

August 2018

At about 8:45 the night of the crash, Birrueta, was headed west on Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick when Summers made a left turn in front of his moped.

He collided with the front passenger side of her Toyota Tundra as she was turning north onto Edison Street, according to the traffic camera video of the accident obtained by the Tri-City Herald.

The fatal crash was at the intersection of Edison Street and Clearwater Avenue.
The fatal crash was at the intersection of Edison Street and Clearwater Avenue.

The moped’s headlights were on, and Summers had a flashing yellow arrow to yield to oncoming traffic, court documents said.

Summer stopped for a few minutes after the collision and witnesses saw her pacing back and forth outside her pickup.

She then got back in the truck and drove north on Edison, made a U-turn and parked behind the Super Supplements store in the Albertson’s parking lot near the intersection.

She did not flee, but she also did not call 911 or identify herself to police when they found her sitting in her pickup, according to court documents.

She later told Kennewick police that she stopped and called her boyfriend instead of 911 and didn’t go back to help the dying man.

She was seen stopping behind the USA Gasoline station, tossing a garbage bag in the dumpster.

Officers retrieved the bag, which held empty containers for marijuana products along with a magazine and a business card, both with Summers’ name on them, court documents said.

After witnesses confirmed to police that Summers was the driver of the truck that hit Birrueta, she was taken to the hospital, where blood was drawn four hours after the crash.

Katie Summers appears in Benton County Superior Court in August 2018 after the fatal crash in Kennewick.
Katie Summers appears in Benton County Superior Court in August 2018 after the fatal crash in Kennewick.

Blood test results showed she had a blood alcohol content of 0.066%, which is below the Washington state legal limit of 0.08%.

She also tested positive for marijuana, but state law sets a limit for the active ingredient in marijuana in the blood within two hours.

“While the video obtained by the KPD Traffic Unit showed the defendant had consumed saké prior to driving, neither experts for the State or the defendant can scientifically establish what the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration was at the time of driving,” said the document filed by Prosecutor Andy Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Megan Killgore.

State liquor agents also investigated the possibility that Summers was overserved alcohol but concluded she “did not exhibit physical signs of intoxication on the video and was therefore not overserved,” said the document.

At the time, she was fitness trainer and wellness coach with thousands of Instagram followers and had been featured in fitness magazines and websites after she lost more than 100 pounds.

Sentencing

The standard sentencing range for the charges is one year and nine months to two years and three months in a state prison.

Prosecutors plan to ask for the top of the range.

Summers remains out on bail under orders to wear an alcohol monitoring device.

Her sentencing is set for March 16.

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