No charges filed against mother in son's death
October 2, 2008 · Updated 9:54 AM
No charges had been filed as of Monday, Nov. 27, against Debra Whalawitsa of Snoqualmie who allegedly was involved in a one-car crash Nov. 19 that killed her son, Calijah Whalawitsa, also of Snoqualmie.
Whala-witsa made her second court appearance Wednesday, Nov. 22, at about 2:30 p.m. in King County District Court, where she was freed from all restrictions placed on her while initial charges were pending. The case is still under investigation by the Washington State Patrol and has not been referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney, said Dan Donohoe, prosecuting attorney's office spokesperson. Prosecutors likely will receive the investigation within a few days, at which time a decision will be made about charges, Donohoe said.
Whalawitsa, 49, is administrative services director for the city of Snoqualmie. After allegedly crashing her car on Southeast Park Street between midnight and 3 a.m. Nov. 19 in Snoqualmie, Whalawitsa allegedly left the scene. She said she was disoriented when she left, said David Allen, Whalawitsa's attorney.
"She didn't realize her son had perished at the scene," Allen said. "She thought he had left the scene and gone to a friend's home. She was disoriented as a result of the accident."
Whalawitsa crawled out of the car, a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria, which had flipped onto its roof. She then allegedly walked home, leaving her 29-year-old son dead or dying at the scene, according to state patrol. She returned to the scene on foot between 10:30 and 11 a.m. with another son.
"She thought it was something she could deal with the next day," Allen said. In retrospect, it was not a good decision, he added.
The Snoqualmie Police Department arrived at the scene around 7:30 a.m. after receiving a call from a passing motorist. Discovering a fatality, the Washington State Patrol was asked to assist at around 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20, trooper Jeff Merrill said.
When she returned to the scene, Whalawitsa allegedly admitted to police that she had been driving the car on the way home from a wedding and that she had been drinking the previous night, Merrill said. She was allegedly taken to Snoqualmie Valley Hospital for an evaluation, then requested a second medical opinion and was taken to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue, Merrill said. Whalawitsa was released from Overlake and immediately booked into King County Jail at 7:49 p.m. Nov. 19. She made her first appearance in court Monday, Nov. 20, and was released on her own recognizance at 7:48 p.m. Nov. 20. She spent one night in jail on charges of vehicular homicide and felony hit-and-run, according to the King County Jail.
Whalawitsa, recently divorced, moved to Washington state in 1975, then to Snoqualmie in 1991. She has two adult children other than Calijah: a daughter, Sonya, and son, Isaiah. She has been an employee of the city of Snoqualmie since June of 1991. Whalawitsa has received full support from Snoqualmie city leaders.
"While at the hospital, I told her, don't worry about work this week, you just focus on what you need to get done here, with your family and other issues," said Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson.
Larson said he will accept city administrator Bob Larson's decision of how to handle Whalawitsa's time away from work. He also spoke openly about Whalawitsa's character.
"I've known her for seven years," Larson said. "Debra absolutely has a reputation for being someone who is highly reliable, very trustworthy, a person of great integrity and honor. She's not one with a reputation in her private or public life for doing anything to excess."
So far, her job is not at stake. Larson said there had not been an accusation yet and any potential charges filed against Whalawitsa will not affect her job.
"If at some point this leads to her being found guilty of a felony, we'd have to cross that bridge when we come to it," Larson said. "The felony she's alleged to have committed, it's not something that involves something related directly to her work performance or something that would bring into question the ethics of how she conducts herself professionally."
The Snoqualmie Municipal Code, the reference code that must be adhered to during a city employee's prosecution for a violation of the law, has nothing written concerning employees facing felony charges caused by a car crash. The potential charges against her do not directly relate to Whalawitsa's integrity or ability to do her job for the city. The charges also do not concern her ability to conduct herself professionally.
A memorial service was held Wednesday, Nov. 22, at Mount Si High School to honor Calijah Emmanual Whalawitsa. Funeral services were held Friday, Nov. 24, at Nespelem Catholic Long House in Nespelem on the Colville Reservation. Calijah, a first-line descendent of the Colville Tribe, was buried at Little Nespelem Cemetery.
The oldest of three children, Calijah was born Oct. 4, 1977, in Grand Coulee, Wash., where he was raised until moving to Snoqualmie in 1990. He attended Snoqualmie Middle School and Mount Si High School before attending Bellevue Community College. Calijah was a bartender and food server for four years before working for a construction company, placing underground utilities. He was also a member of the Confederated Tribes of Washington and the North Bend Moose Club.