‘I just want to get on with my life’

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Kristen Grindley. Courtesy photo.
It’s been over a year since WSU grad Kristen Grindley was found unconscious and near death in a pool of blood on Pullman Albion Road in rural Whitman County.

Richard Pasma, Kristen’s ex-boyfriend and the man prosecutors claim was responsible for her extensive injuries, was eventually sentenced to nine months after entering an Alford Plea to a charge of felony hit and run.

By taking the Alford Plea, Pasma did not admit guilt, instead recognizing that he would probably be found guilty in a trial. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution dropped an extension to the charge for extenuating circumstances, which had asked for an enhanced sentence.

The defense claimed Kristen was obsessive and drunk and had climbed into the back of Pasma’s pickup and then fell out, all without his knowledge.

Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy acknowledged that there were many unknowns in the case, one of the biggest being the fact that the Woodinville woman’s injuries were so severe that she wasn’t able to recall what happened to her.

After spending several months in a rehab center in Spokane, Kristen returned home to continue her therapy. And although she has made remarkable progress, she still has a long road ahead of her.

"We are very pleased with her progress," says Pat Grindley, Kristen’s mother. "She’s made great strides. The doctors tell us that with brain injuries, it’s typical that recovery can continue for up to five years after the trauma."

Currently, Kristen goes to UW Medical Center three to four days a week to receive occupational, vocational and speech therapy. Grindley notes that her daughter is more alert, her response time is better and that her mobility is very good.

"But there are a few medical things that won’t get any better and she’ll have to deal with those for the rest of her life," she adds. "One of the things she still has issues with is her short term memory. If you ask her about something she did a week ago, she has difficulties recalling. It’s a ton better than it was, but still not 100 percent. Sometimes she can remember, other times not."

She adds, "She also has hearing loss in one ear." Grindley explains that Kristen recently began volunteering with her at a local store owned by a friend of the family.

She’s also participating in a program offered through the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

"It’s a government sponsored program to help people with disabilities work towards the goal of becoming employed," comments Grindley.

Kristen is happy with how far she has come, but at times she is impatient with her progress.

"I see a huge difference in me," she acknowledges. "But, I want to do more. I want to be able to drive again. And I want to work full time."

Her recollection of what happened to her is still hazy. She remembers hearing Pasma’s truck pull up to the house and going out to talk with him about an argument they had earlier in the day. She knows she got into his pickup and then he peeled out of the driveway. Beyond that, it’s a blank.

"My memory is coming back," says Kristen, "but it’s in little bits here and there. A comment or even a word can suddenly bring it back."

In regards to the sentence her ex-boyfriend received, the Woodinville woman is blunt.

"It stinks," she responds. "He should have gotten the five years for what he did. The only good thing about it is that he will have it on his permanent record. That can never be erased."

Her mother echoes similar sentiments adding, "I’m still so resentful for what he did to her, not only on that day in November, but the entire time they were dating ..."

Coming to terms with the plea deal wasn’t easy for Kristen or her parents, as they wanted Pasma to serve a longer sentence – in prison. He’s currently in jail and according to Grindley, he is allowed to leave the facility to attend school.

"He’s really never accepted responsibility for what he did and his sentence just doesn’t fit the crime," she adds. "But, we accepted the situation because we knew that the defense attorney was going to make it all Kristen’s fault and we didn’t want her to be blamed for something she didn’t do. We knew she really wanted to put this all behind her. At least this way, we were all able to get some sense of closure."

Kristen admits she is ready and eager to move on. "It’s time," she says. "I just want to get on with my life."



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