Plea deal reached in deadly Old Town crash

6-18-13-old town crash suspect
Brent Warstler entered a no contest plea to a 19-count indictment on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, before Judge Tom Ryan. (KOIN 6 News, Douglas Key)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Prosecutors have reached a plea deal with a 42-year-old man who was drunk when he crashed his truck and killed a woman in downtown, officials said.

Brent Warstler entered a no contest plea to a 19-count indictment on Tuesday before Judge Tom Ryan. A “no contest” plea means Warstler does not admit guilt — but believes there is enough evidence that a judge or jury would find him guilty if the case went to trial.

Warstler was arrested Jan. 20, 2013 when officers from the Portland Police Bureau responded to the intersection of Northwest 5th Avenue and Northwest Everett, a police spokesperson said.

Warstler was driving his 2012 pick-up southbound on Northwest 5th Avenue when he ran a red light, investigators with the Traffic Division Major Crash Team said. At the same time, a taxi — which had the right of way — struck the truck in the intersection, which caused the truck to veer left onto the sidewalk, investigators said.

Rebecca Bray, 20, died at the scene and her friend, 21-year-old Brandi Butner, was rushed to a Portland hospital with critical injuries, police said.

In February, a judge reduced Warstler’s bail from $297,000 to $50,000. He was able to post bail and was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet that detects alcohol. A grand jury indicted him on 19 charges that included: second-degree manslaughter, DUII, reckless driving, eight counts of recklessly endangering another, third-degree assault, six counts of fourth-degree assault, second-degree criminal mischief.

Deputy District Attorney Susan Howard said at Warstler’s bail hearing that his blood-alcohol level was 0.20 one hour after the crash. Investigators estimated Warstler was driving 42 miles per hour at the time of the crash, Howard said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, she asked for deputies to take him back into custody, but Ryan noted he has been on release since the bail hearing and could remain out of jail.

His formal sentencing has been set for Sept. 3 at 9 a.m. He faces a maximum of 75 month in prison on the second-degree manslaughter charge alone, officials said.

KOIN 6 News  tried to talk with Warstler and his attorney after Tuesday’s pleading. However, they did not want to talk.

The families of Butner and Bray have filed civil lawsuits against Warstler. Those cases are pending.

Brent Weisberg

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