Woman charged in fatal I-5 crash

Victim's family questions justice system

"One day, everything is perfect," said Eric Hillstrom's mother. Now he is in intensive care, his prognosis uncertain.
"One day, everything is perfect," said Eric Hillstrom's mother. Now he is in intensive care, his prognosis uncertain.

King County prosecutors on Friday filed vehicular homicide and assault charges against a 27-year-old Burien woman who police say was drunk and drove the wrong way down Interstate 5 in excess of 100 mph, causing a crash that left a woman dead and a man seriously injured.

While the victim was recovering Friday in the hospital, his family questioned why the woman, Cerrissa Christensen, was behind the wheel on Tuesday, given a 2003 drunken-driving conviction and numerous tickets, including ones for speeding, reckless driving and hit-and-run.

"She made a stupid mistake," Sue Hillstrom, mother of the victim, said Friday. "It was 100 percent preventable. ... I have more problems with our justice system than with her."

Christensen on Friday remained under armed guard at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, after she tried to leave her room several times, officials said.

Investigators said she was driving a GMC Yukon the wrong way near Tukwila on Tuesday when she hit a Chevrolet pickup truck driven by Eric Hillstrom. Tacoma resident Bawny McQuistin, 18, was a passenger with Hillstrom and died at the scene.

Christensen is believed to have turned left into the truck. Hillstrom, 19, is in intensive care at Harborview.

He is suffering from serious head injuries, bruised lungs and a broken hip, his parents said Friday. It remains unclear, his parents said, if he will ever be the same.

"One day, everything is perfect," said Sue Hillstrom, a Tacoma resident. "Now, it's like, do I quit my job? Is my life rehabbing him for the rest of his life? ... It's upside down."

A preliminary blood test shows Christensen had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent, which is three times over the legal limit, according to court papers. Prosecutors believe she had been drinking tequila at a Seattle bar before the accident, and she reportedly told a State Patrol trooper she only had only three or four shots of the drink, according to court papers.

Hillstrom's parents said Friday they have not told him about the accident or his girlfriend's death. But they are at his bedside, talking to him and telling him they love him.

Sue Hillstrom hopes Christensen will remain in prison for the rest of her life. She and her husband, Donald, expressed serious concern about the judicial system.

Authorities, they added, should have done a better job of keeping tabs on Christensen's whereabouts.

The parents hope to talk with lawmakers about keeping the roads safe from drunken drivers. "We'll do whatever we can to prevent this in the future," Sue Hillstrom said.

Eric Hillstrom graduated from Fife High School in 2006 and recently started classes at a maritime academy operated by Seattle Central Community College. His dream is to sail around the world.

His parents believe he and McQuistin were going to Seattle, where he lived, when the crash occurred.

"He's the life of the party," sister Katie Baker said.

He had been dating McQuistin for only about five months. But his parents knew their relationship was serious. "Bawny just stood out," Sue Hillstrom said.

Prosecutors are asking that once Christensen is transferred to the King County Jail, she be held on $750,000 bail.

If convicted of the charges, she could be sentenced to more than six years in prison. Her arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 22.