Woman pleads guilty to vehicular homicide, assault

A Burien woman who drove the wrong way down Interstate 5 and slammed into a pickup truck, killing an 18-year-old woman and badly injuring her boyfriend, pleaded guilty Monday in the alcohol-fueled wreck.

Cerrissa Christensen faces 6 1/2 years in prison for the Oct. 9 crash that killed Bawny McQuistin, a young Tacoma woman with a flair for writing and a desire to work someday with animals.

McQuistin's aunt Leslie, who said she raised the girl from the age of 3, said she is still dealing with "a very heavy sense of yearning and loss."

"Nothing can bring Bawny back. Nothing," she said. "My main concern is that (Christensen) gets out and does the same thing over again."

Christensen, 27, whose driving record was already marred with convictions for hit-and-run, reckless driving and DUI, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.

She will be sentenced April 25 in King County Superior Court.

The wreck killed McQuistin instantly and almost took the life of her boyfriend of five months, Eric Hillstrom, who was driving toward his Seattle home. The 19-year-old man suffered broken bones in his legs and back and was left with serious brain injuries.

Christensen had been drinking at a Seattle bar before the crash. Friends told her she was too drunk to drive and offered to give her a ride, but she managed to sneak away and get behind the wheel, said Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim.

She entered the freeway's northbound lanes headed south. She was speeding -- 100 mph at times -- in the car pool lane when she saw a state trooper and slowed down, "not even comprehending that she was going the wrong way," Freedheim said.

The trooper and others tried, unsuccessfully, to get her to stop.

Her GMC Yukon struck McQuistin's pickup near Tukwila. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.25 percent -- more than three times the legal limit -- according to court documents.

Christensen would have faced roughly 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years for the charges, but her previous drunken-driving conviction adds two years to her sentence range. Prosecutors and her attorney agreed to the top end of that range.

Defense attorney Lennard Nahajski said Christensen is "extremely remorseful about this whole incident" and wanted to take responsibility, which led to her guilty plea.

He said she has told him, "I owe this to the victim's family."