• Street-racing victims defend driver charged with vehicular homicide

    By: Gary Horcher


    PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - The family of two girls killed in a crash caused by racing says they don't blame a man charged with vehicular homicide who police said was leading the race.

    A scarred tree trunk marks the spot of the violent deadly impact, where two teenage girls were killed in a collsion.

    Bathed in the flickering glow of votive candles, a mourning father lay sobbing on the ground. He clutched a teddy bear on the spot where his daughter was one of two inseparable best friends killed in a fleeting instant after reaching exhilarating speeds approaching a curve, which was 10 feet above where the car landed.

    Investigators say the two victims were in a car driven by 18-year-old Rebecah Barrett. They were playing a racing game with Barrett's 20-year-old boyfriend, Robert Rundquist Jr. Rundquist was driving a pickup truck. At one point, witnesses told Kitsap County deputies that Barrett's car and Rundquist's truck were side-by-side on the two-lane road, exceeding the 35 mph speed limit by at least 30 mph.

    When Barrett's car flew off a curve, she and her passenger, 17-year-old Shanaia Bennett, died instantly.

    "They were best friends from birth," said Theresa Barrett, mother of Shanaia. "They were born into this world best friends, and they left this world best friends, together!"

    Bennett's brother-in-law James McIntyre showed a KIRO 7 crew a video showing Shanaia Bennett singing, sounding strikingly similar to Adele.

    "She had the absolute best voice," said Mcintyre. "She sang all the time, so talented," he said.

    On Tuesday, Rundquist was charged with vehicular homicide and held on $100,000 bail. Charging documents suggest he was leading the street race, and a game where two cars continually pass the other.

    Bennett's family has strong opinions about the charges.

    "We forgive him," said Bennett's sister, Tatiana Bennett. "And there's no way in the world that he should be blamed for what happened."

    The mother of Shanaia, who was heard loudly wailing from the memorial scene, also defended Rundquist. "It was not his intent, he loved them both! He called one friend and he called the other my girlfriend, so no, he was not trying to do anything vicious at all."

     On Tuesday, the people who loved the two best friends are supporting each other through shocking sudden loss.

    "They're both sitting on each knee of God looking down at us," said Bennett. "And they're crying on God's shoulder, praying for us to be  OK, because they know they're OK," she added.

    A 17-year-old girl in the back seat of Barrett's car survived. She was extricated from the back, and treated for injuries at Tacoma General Hospital, which would not return KIRO-7's repeated calls, seeking her condition.

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