Driver who killed Chefornak man gets 18 months

by Angela Denning-Barnes on April 9, 2013

The hit-and-run driver who killed a Chefornak man two years ago in Anchorage will serve 18 months in prison under a plea agreement approved Monday. The driver is 21-year-old Ashley Nichole Bashore of Anchorage. She struck 28-year-old Hubert Tunuchuk and didn’t go for help afterward. In a story by Kyle Hopkins with the Anchorage Daily News, Superior Court Judge Jack Smith accepted the deal after rejecting an earlier proposal allowing Bashore to serve just one year for leaving Tunuchuk to die after striking him with her car.

Prosecutors said Bashore tried to explain the damage to her SUV by telling a friend she had hit a dog.

According to the ADN story, Tunuchuk’s family filled the first two rows of the courtroom gallery. His mother, Godelieve Tunuchuk, listened to the judge’s remarks translated into Yup’ik. She told the ADN reporter that her son used to hunt food for them and now she has nobody to hunt for her and her family.

Family members said they were disappointed by the sentencing. The mother had hoped to see Bashore serve 10 years or more. She said if the roles had been reversed and Hubert had struck someone while driving, he wouldn’t have sped away. She said he would have stopped to help.

Tunuchuk was in Southcentral Alaska to study power plant operations at a vo-tec school in Seward. Court filings say he had been drinking and was walking in the road near a narrow sidewalk curb on the Tudor Road overpass above the Seward Highway when he was hit.

The driver, Bashore, was 19 years old at the time. Phone records show she was likely texting immediately before or at the time of the collision, but that was contested by her defense attorney.

According to the Anchorage Daily News story, under the agreement, Bashore admitted in court to taking her eyes off the road. She pleaded guilty to failing to help someone after an injury accident and criminally negligent homicide.
The judge told Tunuchuk’s family on Monday that he understood they might not be happy with the 18-month sentence but warned it wouldn’t necessarily have increased if the case had gone to trial. He told them the sentence comes from the way the Legislature set up the sentencing guidelines.

According to the agreement, when Bashore gets out of prison, she will not be allowed to own a cell phone that can send text messages without a probation officer’s permission.

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