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Originally published February 25, 2014 at 5:13 PM | Page modified February 26, 2014 at 10:24 AM

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Foreign student pleads guilty in fatal 2012 Des Moines crash

A Chinese student, who drove his newly purchased Mercedes-Benz at freeway speeds on a residential street in Des Moines and crashed into another car, killing the driver and injuring three people, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Tuesday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Incredible, the state of Washington and its weak, pathetic excuse for a judicial system... MORE
15 months?? I think the King County prosecutor's office needs a reality check. I... MORE
This is disgusting and pathetic. He killed a woman. Dead. Never coming back. Her... MORE


A Chinese student who crashed his newly purchased Mercedes-Benz into another car, killing the driver and injuring three people in Des Moines, pleaded guilty Tuesday.

Yichun Xu pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide (disregard for the safety of others) and three counts of reckless endangerment in the Nov. 10, 2012, crash that killed a 25-year-old woman. He faces 15 months in prison when he is sentenced March 7, said King County Prosecutor’s Office spokesman Dan Donohoe.

Xu was released from the King County Jail last March after his mother handed over a cashier’s check for the entire $2 million bail, an unusually high amount.

The bail was set at a high amount because prosecutors feared he was a flight risk.

He was rearrested Feb. 10 after turning himself in to police in preparation for Tuesday’s plea hearing, Donohoe said.

Xu, a Chinese national, had been in the country for two months at the time of the crash. He was living with a host family in Olympia and had a student visa while attending South Puget Sound Community College.

One witness estimated that Xu’s Mercedes was traveling at 70 mph along 20th Avenue South just after 3 p.m. before running a stop sign at the intersection with South 240th Street and slamming into Brenda Gomez-Zapata’s car, the papers say.

Gomez-Zapata was driving relatives to a birthday party. The 25-year-old died from a severe brain injury, and three others in her car were injured,

According to charging papers, Xu had $542 in his wallet at the time of his arrest and “requested several times that in lieu of being booked into jail, he requested to bail out right away,” charging papers say.

Xu did not have an international license and hadn’t driven in the United States.

He was treated for a leg injury at Highline Hospital, and one of his passengers, Xinran Zhao, 18, was also treated at Highline for a head injury, charging papers say. Xu’s other passengers were an 18-year-old woman who declined medical treatment and two 17-year-olds, who weren’t hurt, the papers say.

One condition of Xu’s release from jail last year was that he surrender his passport.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.

Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.

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