South Sound News

Father of two killed by alleged drunken driver in Tacoma

The family of a firefighter and father of two killed by an alleged drunken driver reacted angrily as the driver made her first appearance in Pierce County Superior Court.

“He had kids, man! My son had kids,” shouted a man who identified himself as Caire Cotton’s father.

“You took his life. You took my son’s life,” the man shouted at the thick glass in the secure courtroom. “I know you hear me,” he screamed. “You took his damn life!”

A woman identified by family members as Cotton's stepmother broke down as the family tearfully left the courtroom.

“This is not right,” she shouted at the suspect, Theresa Ruffner. “He can’t see his kids. He wanted to go home to his kids.”

The 24-year-old Cotton, a firefighter and father of two, according to a GoFundMe page started by family members, died just after 6 p.m. Saturday when he stopped his motorcycle to deal with some sort of problem on southbound Interstate 5 near the I-705 merge in Tacoma.

Charges said Ruffner, 62, was seen making rapid lane changes and then cutting across a gore point where Cotton had stopped, hitting him and throwing him into traffic lanes where he died.

Prosecutors said Ruffner then lost control of the vehicle and swerved into traffic, rear-ending another car and injuring the driver. Court documents say Ruffner's blood alcohol level was 0.20, which is two and a half times over the legal limit.

In court, prosecutors said Ruffner has two previous arrests for drunken driving but has so far avoided jail time. She pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide and vehicular assault and was ordered held on $100,000 bail.

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