By Steve Guntli
A Bellingham man standing trial for the deaths of two Ferndale teens was found not guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court on May 4.
William Jeffrey Klein, 35, had been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault after he drove his Toyota 4Runner into a class of Windward High School students walking on the sidewalk. Two teens, Shane Ormiston, 18, and Gabriel Anderson, 15, were killed in the accident, and two others were seriously injured. Klein and his 3-year-old son, who was a passenger, were unharmed.
Troopers at the scene asked Klein if he had used drugs, who replied he used cannabis frequently. A blood test showed he did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the accident.
During his interview, Klein told troopers he had fallen asleep at the wheel. Michael Brodsky, Klein’s defense attorney, presented expert testimony to the effect that his client had an undiagnosed sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea that had been preventing him from
getting a good night’s sleep.
Klein’s coworkers from Trader Joe’s in Bellingham took the stand and testified that Klein had been looking run down in the hours before the crash.
In addition to the coworkers, Brodsky and prosecutor Dave McEachran interviewed state troopers, two experts in sleep disorders and the surviving students who were struck by Klein’s car.
McEachran claimed Klein drove with disregard for the safety of others, and thus his case qualified under the state’s vehicular homicide laws. However, the jury decided Klein was not guilty of all charges.
McEachran said the case would not be appealed. Both families of the teens who were killed have filed wrongful death suits against Klein, both of which are pending.