A drunken driver who plowed into and killed a local homebuilder as he rode a bike in his gated neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon in 2015 was sentenced Friday afternoon to 4½ years in prison.
Coulter Cook, 27, pleaded guilty in August to vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated in connection with the death of 59-year-old Reed “Bart” Rutledge. His plea agreement capped his sentence at six years. Prosecutor Alfred Quintana asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence, while Cook’s defense attorney Erlinda Johnson asked the judge for probation.
Second Judicial District Judge Brett Loveless said he recognized that while Cook had no criminal history and expressed “a great deal of remorse,” he also “got behind the wheel of a car and drove in a neighborhood and killed a man.” He also pointed out that Cook’s crime was set in a society packed full of messages reminding citizens about the destructive consequences of driving drunk.
Cook described his own actions as “reckless” and “irresponsible” as he told the judge and a full courtroom that an apology would not begin to describe how terrible he feels.
“I would never ask for or expect forgiveness for the damage that I have caused,” he said. “My only hope is that the victims of my terrible mistake who are still here will one day find peace and happiness in their lives.”
According to police, witnesses reported seeing a truck swerving and bouncing between the curbs on a street in the Tanoan community at around 2 p.m. July 19, 2015. The truck hit Rutledge as he rode his bicycle, dragging him about 150 feet. Quintana said a blood test taken about four hours after the collision found that Cook’s blood alcohol level was 0.23 percent.
Rutledge’s daughter told the court about the man her father was, and the way his death has impacted her family.
“I remember watching my mom crumple to the floor as a scream exploded from my mouth that I wanted to stop but couldn’t,” Rachel Rutledge said, describing the day her father was killed.
Rutledge’s wife, Jeneen, said she thought the sentence was insufficient and said it was “ludicrous” that the state continues to allow drunken driving fatalities to happen. “Another family’s going to go through this and we’re going to say, ‘Why?’ ” she said. “This is why.”
Rachel Rutledge said nothing would bring her father back. “It’s just not enough,’ she said. “And it’s never going to be enough.”
Johnson declined to comment on the sentence following the hearing.