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Originally published Monday, July 25, 2011 at 9:12 AM

Careening SUV kills Kirkland man — father of 2, Google worker

Steve Lacey, of Kirkland, killed Sunday afternoon in a possible case of road rage, was a 43-year-old father of two who worked for Google and used to work for Microsoft.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A motorist killed Sunday afternoon near Interstate 405 in Kirkland in a possible case of road rage was a tech geek who loved music, photography and his family.

"He's a fantastic, exceptionally brilliant, wonderful man," said Neal Karlinsky, a friend and neighbor of Steve Lacey, of Kirkland. "He loved being a tech geek, but he wasn't (just) a tech geek. He never knew how brilliant he was."

Lacey, 43, a father of two, worked for Google and used to work for Microsoft on its games, including Microsoft Flight Simulator, according to the biography he had posted on his blog, www.steve-lacey.com.

According to the State Patrol, the accident was a case of road rage with an innocent victim.

An affidavit of probable cause, filed in support of the case against driver Patrick Rexroat, indicates his blood-alcohol level was measured after the crash at four times the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Troopers said that Rexroat was possibly chasing a second car going south when his SUV careened off an exit ramp at Northeast 85th Street, and he lost control, crossing the centerline of Northeast 85th and colliding with a BMW driven by Lacey.

When troopers spoke with Rexroat, of Mountlake Terrace, they noted that his speech was slurred and he smelled of alcohol and was barely able to maintain his balance, according to the State Patrol. Rexroat, 56, was taken to Evergreen Hospital Medical Center to be evaluated, and medical staff there drew his blood to measure his alcohol level, the State Patrol said.

Lacey had just left home on an errand to Costco, Karlinsky said. He died at the scene of the crash.

Rexroat was arrested for investigation of vehicular homicide, troopers said. A decision on charges is likely within the next day or two, said Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the King County Prosecutor's Office.

During a hearing Monday at the King County Jail, a judge set Rexroat's bail at $50,000. Prosecutors had asked that bail be set at $1 million.

"It's outrageous people like this are able to share the road," Karlinsky said. "Steve was robbed by this person. The kids were robbed of their father."

Lacey, a native of England and a graduate of Imperial College in London, was also co-founder of SwitchGear Software, a startup.

He had worked at Google since 2006. He worked for Microsoft for 11 years and briefly worked for Facebook. At the time of his death, he was working for Google on Chrome video.

"Mark Zuckerberg personally recruited him to Facebook," Karlinsky said. "Google grabbed him back." On his blog, Lacey had written, "The food was too good to be ignored."

In a statement released Monday, Chee Chew, engineering director at Google Kirkland, said, "We were saddened to hear this tragic news. Our hearts go out to Steve's family during this difficult time. He will be missed by all of us at Google."

Lacey and his wife, Nabila, have a son and a daughter, ages 5 and 7.

Another friend, Peter Wilson, worked with Lacey at Google.

"He was a lovely guy. He was one of those people always upbeat and happy," said Wilson, who, like Lacey, moved here from England. "He was a great and steady guy, and everybody who worked for him loved him."

Wilson said Lacey left Facebook and went back to Google because it allowed him more time to spend with his children.

Karlinsky said most nights Lacey would be out in his neighborhood playing with his kids. He loved the Museum of Flight and took his family there almost every weekend, Karlinsky said. "He loves his family."

The family recently returned from a cruise to Alaska, and Lacey told Karlinsky he couldn't take enough pictures.

The family was planning a trip to Yellowstone, and Lacey and his wife had just celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.

In his spare time, Karlinsky said, Lacey was working on an invention in his garage, building a remote-control car running off an android phone.

Another friend, Robert Scoble, blogger, author and former technology evangelist at Microsoft, said Lacey had a huge impact on many people in the tech world.

Lacey had worked on Google maps and helped put 3-D into the maps, Scoble said. "Every human being who uses a map is touching his code."

"I liked that he was humble, nice and really smart," Scoble said. "He was passionate about what he did and wanted to share it with everybody."

A college fund for Lacey's children is being established at Chase Bank.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporters Jennifer Sullivan and Amy Harris contributed to this report.

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