• Suspect in fatal I-405 crash says he and victim were racing

    By: Deborah Horne


    BELLEVUE, Wash. - "The accident happened because him and the victim were racing, “ said Joseph Nwachukwu.

    Samuel Sampson's friend Joseph Nwachukwu gave Sampson's side of the story. He said that Sampson and Ian Riley Beckford were racing on Interstate 405 Thursday night.

    "He also informed me that there was an argument in the car and the steering wheel was grabbed," said Nwachukwu.

    Sampson never mentioned the argument to investigators but he did tell them he and Beckford were racing. He estimated his speed at 150mph when he lost control and crashed into Beckford's BMW, which exploded into flames with Beckford trapped inside. Three others were injured in separate cars.

    Sampson also admitted taking methamphetamine, heroin and methadone in the days before the tragedy.

    "It has been verified by his mother that he is employed at Microsoft," said Maureen McKee, his court-appointed defense attorney.

    The judge, however, said the tragedy, plus Sampson's drug admission, called for a high bail.

    Nwachukwu continued to defend Sampson.

    "He's distraught," said Nwachukwu. "He can't believe how his life changed from having a great job at Microsoft to this, all in one day."

    Sampson's story angered the lawyer representing Beckford's family.

    "Any statement that Mr. Beckford was in any way responsible is outrageous," said attorney Eric John Makus, "and we are deeply offended by that."

    Sampson's bail was set at $1 million.


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