Wednesday, June 19, 2024

House Resolution honors life of Gary Knowlton

Widow fights for tougher sentencing

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BREWSTER – On Jan. 25 this year, the state House of Representatives, in Resolution No. 2018-4660 sponsored by representatives Mike Steele (R-Chelan) and Cary Condotta (R-Wenatchee), honored the life of Brewster resident, teacher, coach and lifeguard Gary Knowlton, 50, who was killed by a drunk driver in July 2016.
The driver prosecuted for causing Knowlton’s death was sentenced to a maximum term of 41 months in prison.
Since that time, Knowlton’s widow, Deanna, has been working with her legislators to get the law changed and stiffen the penalty for a crime of the magnitude that took her husband’s life.
“Forty-one months is simply not enough time for what he has taken from us,” said Knowlton of 22-year-old Jovany Lopez- Maciel, who was sentenced last May to serve three years and five months behind bars.
“He will have already served one year on Sept. 15,” said Knowlton of Maciel’s sentence. “Kari and I were just talking about that.”
Kari is Kari Lynn Knowlton who, along with Krysta Lee Knowlton, are the couple’s two daughters.
Maciel was driving a Nissan pickup truck when he struck and killed Gary Knowlton on July 16, 2016, as Knowlton was riding his bicycle on Apple Acres Road north of the Lake Chelan Airport. Knowlton worked as a lifeguard at the Manson Bay Park pool during the summer months and often commuted by bicycle between his home in Brewster and his work.
Maciel took Knowlton’s bicycle and fled the scene. He was arrested two months later and charged with vehicular homicide and felony hit and run on Sept. 28, 2016. Maciel later pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and malicious mischief. His 41-month sentence was the maximum allowed under existing state statues for second-degree manslaughter.
It is Deana Knowlton’s mission to see the law changed and the penalties increased.
“I have even written to the President to see if we can change the law,” Knowlton said.
“My daughters and I go to bed with this every night and wake up with it every morning.” said Knowlton of the loss of her husband and their father. “And before you know it, he gets to walk about a free man as if nothing happened,” Knowlton said of Maciel.
Steele is leading the charge for Knowlton on the legislative front and has a personal as well as professional connection to the case.
“I worked with Gary as a lifeguard at Manson,” said Steele of his early employment, “that was during my high school years and all through college.”
Knowlton was a gifted multi-sport athlete in high school and college as the House Resolution notes.
“While attending Brewster High School in Brewster, Wash., Gary participated in football, basketball, and track. He and his teammates represented Brewster at the State Championships several years in a row, taking home the first place trophy in 1984,” the Resolution said.
Knowlton specialized in the 10-event Decathlon during his college career at Spokane Falls and Whitworth and placed seventh nationally in 1987 one spot out of the All-American ranks.
“We met while we were both swim team coaches,” said Deana. “Gary was coaching the Brewster team and I was the coach for Twisp when the Bjornsen kids were on the swim team.”
Sadie and Erik Bjornsen competed with the U.S. Cross County Ski Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea where Sadie, now 28, placed fifth in the 4 x 5-kilometer relay and Erik, 26, was sixth in the team sprint.
The Knowltons married in September 1988 and made their home in Brewster where Gary worked for Brewster school for 19 years and as a lifeguard at Brewster and Manson pools for a combined total of 32 years.
Deana lost her mother DeAnnis “Dee” Schulz in 2016 shortly after Gary was killed. She is now living in Twisp where her father, Dave Schulz, 82, has coached varsity tennis first at Twisp High School and now Liberty Bell High School for more than a half century.
Knowlton said she will never abandon her mission to see tougher penalties enacted for those whose poor decisions cause so much pain and loss for others.
“I don’t want to see any other family go through what we are going through,” said Knowlton, “I want things to change.”
A paragraph near the end of the House Resolution recognizing Gary Knowlton’s life perhaps says it best:
“Gary will be fondly remembered for his involvement in the community as a husband, father, educator, youth coach, sports official, and bicyclist. His many activities caused one friend to comment that his life was a daily Decathlon.”

brewster, tougher sentenceing, Gary Knowlton

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