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Saturday, August 11, 2012 - Page updated at 07:00 p.m.
Hit-run death of cyclist brings 41-month prison term
By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter
Michael Wang loved to bike to work, his family recalled on Friday.
Wang, 44, was killed while riding home to Shoreline on July 28, 2011, when a hit-and-run driver struck him on Dexter Avenue North in Seattle. The driver, Erlin Garcia-Reyes, wasn't arrested until two months ago, when he was under investigation for another hit and run.
A representative for Wang's family read letters from the dead man's wife, father and brother-in-law during Garcia-Reyes' sentencing Friday in King County Superior Court. All three urged Judge Michael Trickey to issue a stiff sentence.
"It may be that Mr. Garcia-Reyes thinks he has made it up to us by finally confessing to his crime a year late, but it was his decision to run away from the scene and drive his car over Michael's chest," Claire Allen, Wang's widow, wrote in a letter read in court.
Garcia-Reyes, 28, of Normandy Park, apologized to Wang's family before he was sentenced to 41 months in prison, a term at the top of the sentencing range.
Wang, a photographer at PATH, a global-health nonprofit, loved to ride his bicycle, and he biked to work every day, his father, William Wang, wrote in a letter read to the court.
"Since moving to Seattle, Mike was such a happy man. He loved his work and family, he was a wonderful husband and father to his children and wife," William Wang wrote. "Mike's life was robbed by a reckless young driver."
Garcia-Reyes listened as an interpreter translated the letters to his native-language of Spanish. When given a chance to speak, he choked back tears.
"I want to tell the family members that I would like them to forgive me for what happened. I want them to know what happened was an accident, not something I wanted to do," Garcia-Reyes said. He mentioned having a sick daughter, but did not elaborate.
Garcia-Reyes pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run last month. His lawyer, Ramona Brandes, asked Trickey to consider giving her client a sentence below the top of the sentencing range.
Brandes said in court that Garcia-Reyes has been working since the age of 10 and has spent the past five years working 75 hours a week to support his family.
One of Garcia-Reyes' friends, Alexander Gonzales, told The Seattle Times earlier this summer that Garcia-Reyes knew it was wrong to leave the scene.
Gonzales said Garcia-Reyes, a native of Honduras who has lived in the U.S. for five years, told him he did not stop after the collision because he was afraid and "nervous."
Brandes confirmed that there is a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer on Garcia-Reyes. She declined to say whether he is in the country legally.
Law-enforcement sources said a "hold" typically indicates that a person's immigration status is unclear or that the person is in the country illegally and could face deportation pending the resolution of a court case.
In June, when police linked Garcia-Reyes to Wang's death through tips, he was suspected in another, unrelated hit and run in North Seattle.
In that incident, Garcia-Reyes was allegedly a passenger in a vehicle that struck the front window and glass door of a commercial building, charging documents say.
The driver jumped into the vehicle's back seat and Garcia-Reyes got into the driver's seat and drove away, according to the court documents. It's unclear if he was charged in that case.
Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.
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