SANDPOINT — A Bonner County man who accidentally killed a pedestrian and seriously injured another was ordered Wednesday to serve 10 years in prison.
“I believe, unfortunately, when you are not in custody, you are likely to engage in criminal conduct,” 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan said, referring to crimes Peter Franklin Goullette committed prior to and after the deadly collision on McGhee Road in June 2017.
Goullette, 24, was charged with vehicular manslaughter at the felony level, in addition to reckless driving, following the deadly collision on McGhee Road on June 30, 2017. Katherine Stelzer, a 61-year-old from Mead, Wash., was killed in the collision and Clark Fork resident Zualita Updike was seriously wounded.
Updike told Goullette that she had reached a point where she had forgiven him, but that forgiveness was eroded by a string of felony charges Goullette picked up while awaiting trial. A tearful Updike figured the fatal collision would have put Goullette’s life on the straight and narrow, but it seemed to have the opposite effect.
“You are a menace to society, our community,” said Updike who added that the maximum 10-year sentence for manslaughter fell short of accounting for the life that was taken from her friend.
Stelzer’s husband of 38 years declined to make a victim impact statement because he had only unkind things to say about the defendant and did not wish to express them in open court, according to Updike.
“A lack of conscience,” said Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Hanlon, summing up his thoughts while recommending a fixed 10-year term.
Goullette was accused of driving in a grossly negligent manner, which meant that his driving disregarded the safety of others. But his defense counsel, Sandpoint attorney Michael Waldrup, was prepared to argue at trial that Goullette was unaware his driving placed others in jeopardy.
Waldrup said his client directed him to cease preparing for trial so Goullette could enter Alford pleas to the charges, which would spare the Stelzer and Updike families the rigors of such a proceeding. Waldrup added that Stelzer and Updike share some responsibility for the crash because they were walking with traffic instead of against it, which state law requires for roadways of McGhee’s configuration.
“Like it or not, your honor, they did contribute to this,” said Waldrup, who recommended a two- to five-year prison term.
An emotional Goullette said he never meant to hurt anyone and is remorseful for the impact on the victims and their families.
“I have remorse. I can’t deal with it. I don’t want to talk about it, but I’m sorry,” Goullette said.
Goullette’s inability to steer clear of trouble did not work in his favor while awaiting sentencing in the manslaughter case. He was charged with aggravated assault and battery for allegedly forcing his way into a Bonner County home and attacking its occupants with a baseball bat in March. He was further charged with witness tampering for allegedly trying to persuade the victims not to report the incident to authorities.
Buchanan said Goullette could have honored Stelzer and Updike by staying out of trouble and working to be a better person. “Instead, I’m seeing further crimes and violence, and horrible behavior,” said Buchanan. “The only appropriate sentence is the imposition of the maximum sentence.”
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.