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Crime & Courts

Man accused of driving drunk charged with manslaughter in Valley collision that killed mother of 4

Erik Reed, whose wife died in a head-on collision Wednesday, speaks during a Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017, court hearing in Palmer for the man charged with drunken driving and manslaughter in her death. William Brucher, 35, of Chugiak, participated by videoconference. (Zaz Hollander / ADN)

PALMER — Seconds before the crash that killed his wife Wednesday evening, Erik Reed saw the SUV coming straight for his Chevrolet Suburban on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway.

Reed's wife, Brandy, and their 4-year-old son were in the car with him.

Alaska State Troopers say William Brucher, a 35-year-old from Chugiak, was driving drunk when he crossed the center line just after 7 p.m. and hit the Suburban head-on. A breath alcohol test taken nearly two hours later came in at more than twice Alaska's legal limit for driving, court documents show.

Brucher's Ford Expedition came on "at a high rate of speed," Reed said in an interview Thursday. "And I had nowhere to go."

Brucher was arraigned on charges of manslaughter and driving under the influence at an emotional hearing in Palmer court Thursday afternoon attended by Reed and a half-dozen other friends and family.

A complaint filed Thursday in Palmer District Court says he was visibly intoxicated when a trooper talked to him. The man smelled of alcohol, his speech was slurred, and he was stumbling and wobbly, the complaint by trooper Fred Parker said. A breath test done 1 1/2 hours later found that Brucher's blood alcohol content was .196, the complaint said. That is more than double the .08 legal limit for driving in Alaska.

Brucher has a drunken driving conviction from 2006 in Anchorage, court records show. He pleaded no contest in early 2007 in that case.

Troopers said they responded at 7:23 p.m. to Wednesday's crash, which occurred near the intersection of Palmer-Wasilla Highway and Skip Circle. The two-lane highway is one of the busiest arteries in the Mat-Su area.

The impact trapped Brandy Reed in the Suburban, troopers said. Borough emergency responders removed her with extrication equipment but she died at Mat-Su Regional Hospital on Wednesday evening. She was wearing a seat belt and the airbags in the Suburban deployed.

Erik Reed and their son were treated for minor injuries and released. Reed said the boy was scheduled to return to the hospital for more evaluation Thursday.

Brandy Reed had three other children, ages 17, 15 and 10, he said.

Brucher, seeing the manslaughter paperwork for the first time during his arraignment hearing Thursday, put his head in his hands and looked overcome at times during a video conference from the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility with District Court Judge John Wolfe.

He asked for a court-appointed attorney, telling Wolfe he earned less than the roughly $14,500 limit it takes to qualify for a public defender.

Erik Reed addressed the judge, telling him his wife leaves behind four children. He asked the judge to reflect that loss in his decisions. Several people in the gallery wiped away tears.

Wolfe set Brucher's bail at $25,000 cash/corporate with release to a third-party custodian.

Reed, after the hearing, said he doesn't know what justice looks like in this case.

"I'm not God," he said. "Whatever it will take for him to get better."

Reed said he hopes Brucher gets the maximum sentence. There's nothing that will bring back the life he took, he said. "He's walking around, perfectly fine."

The presumptive sentence for manslaughter in a case like this is five to nine years in prison, Wolfe said.

Brucher's next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 26.

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