Cash sentenced to 68 months for fatal wreck

A 29-year-old Belfair woman was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Wednesday for killing a woman in a January car accident after telling a courtroom packed with mourners that there were times she wished she had died instead of the victim.

Following the recommendation of the prosecutor, who said Tera Lawanna Cash was a drunk driver without a valid driver’s license who should have never been on the road, Superior Court Judge Anna M. Laurie sentenced her to 68 months — 5.6 years — of incarceration for the accident that claimed the life of 27-year-old Silverdale resident Nicole Bruse Daniels.

According to police reports, Cash was driving with both alcohol and marijuana in her system when she crossed the center line of State Route 166 around 9:35 p.m. on Jan. 6 and struck Daniels’ car nearly head-on, killing the young woman and severely injuring her 20-year-old passenger.

She was arrested a week later by the Washington State Patrol in the hospital and charged with vehicular homicide, a count she pleaded guilty to last week.

Telling Cash she thought Daniels’ family displayed uncommon grace in their comments to her before the sentencing, Laurie told the sobbing defendant she hoped she took the family’s words to heart.

“This family has offered you more grace than is typical in these cases. All have expressed a hope that something good comes out of this and that you turn your life around,” she said. “Families usually don’t do that.”

Although Daniels’ parents and husband submitted long statements to the court describing a loving daughter and wife and the pain they all felt at losing her, each chose not to read the words out loud and instead handed them to the defendant’s attorney and asked that Cash read them herself.

“I want her to understand what has happened and what Nikki meant to us,” said Daniels’ father, William Bruse. “If she reads it, that will be enough. Time in jail is not just punishment — it is time to turn her life around.”

The mother of the victim, Deborah Orsburn, then spoke, telling Cash she was just “a child like my child.

“I hope you get your head together and that at 55 you are not making the same mistakes you are now, because then I will really have to hate you,” Orsburn said. “The only justice in this case would be for you to trade places with my daughter, because you stole her life, and you stole (her husband Ben’s) life. But I hope you have remorse in you heart, otherwise I would have to hate you, and I don’t want to hate you.”

After Daniels’ husband approached the bench and wordlessly handed over his statement, Cash’s defense attorney Aaron Talney said his client was “clearly remorseful” and had wanted to take responsibility for the crime by pleading guilty her first day in court, but had decided against it only on his advice.

“She has taken responsibility and pleaded to the top end of the sentencing range,” Talney said. “She wanted this to end and did not want to put the family through a trial.”

Her voice shaking, Cash then addressed the court.

“I have felt remorse, and there are times I wish it would have been me that died. I can only begin to imagine what the family is going through,” she said, explaining that she has no memory of the accident other than leaving her house. “I still I don’t know what happened that night and what made me get into that car. I just wish I could go back.”

Although Daniels’ husband and mother had requested an exceptional sentence for Cash above and beyond the standard range, after imposing her punishment Laurie told the family she was severely limited by Washington State laws regarding the length of incarceration.

“I have read your statements, though, and they tell me that you raised a remarkable child. Thank you for sharing that love with us today and for passing that on to Ms. Cash,” Laurie said.

Telling the defendant that although she could not order her to read the family’s statements herself, she hoped she would.

“I hope you take them with you, and the next time you are even tempted to drive after drinking again, you will take them out and read them,” she said.

On top of the prison term, Cash was sentenced to up to 36 months in community custody.

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