A Snohomish man who pleaded guilty last month to a fatal alcohol-fueled crash in Kirkland last summer was sentenced Friday today to four years in prison.

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Patrick Rexroat held his wife’s hand as she died from breast cancer, but he denied Nabila Lacey the same opportunity to comfort her husband, who was killed instantly in July when an excessively drunk Rexroat slammed his SUV into Stephen Lacey’s car in Kirkland.

“He deserved love, remorse and compassion. He should’ve watched his children grow up. We should’ve grown old together,” Nabila Lacey said Friday during Rexroat’s sentencing before King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong.

“Being married to Steve was like living the dream — there was love and laughter, and there was technology,” she said of the Google engineer, prompting sad laughs from two dozen friends and relatives who attended the hearing. “… In an instant, the dream was over.”

Rexroat, who in June 2005 first lost his wife to cancer, then his business and his house in the economic downturn, turned to alcohol during his downward spiral, said defense attorney Tim Leary.

“He knows he and he alone is responsible for the tragedy that struck this family,” Leary said of his client.

Though Leary had asked for a sentence of a little more than three years, Armstrong sided with Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Friedheim and handed down the toughest sentence she could: Four years, with credit for the nearly eight months Rexroat, now 57, has served in the King County Jail. In addition to paying restitution and $1,000 to the State Patrol for its emergency response, Rexroat will have to have an interlock device installed should he get his driver’s license reinstated, the judge ruled.

Rexroat, who stood with his arms crossed over his chest, cleared his throat and swallowed hard after watching a photo montage played on a courtroom TV that showed Stephen Lacey on his wedding day, on a boat with friends, walking hand-in-hand with his wife and cradling an infant.

“I’d like to apologize. I really feel bad … I would gladly take the man’s place if possible,” Rexroat said in a brief statement. “I’m very ashamed and I apologize.”

Stephen Lacey, originally from England, was described as a brilliant software developer and technology pioneer known for his positivity and kindness. A doting father, he took his two children — Julian, 8, and Jasmine, 6 — on weekly outings to the movies or the Children’s Museum and back home shared their adventures with his wife.

The 43-year-old was on his way home from Costco on a Sunday afternoon in July when he was killed. Rexroat was traveling southbound on Interstate 405, and may have been chasing another car that he said had cut him off, when his speeding SUV careened off an exit ramp at Northeast 85th Street, crossing the centerline and colliding with Lacey’s BMW, the State Patrol said.

One witness said Rexroat got out of his vehicle and “pounded on his chest like a gorilla.” But Leary on Friday said media accounts of the crash weren’t accurate, adding he saw a “massive bruise” on Rexroat’s chest the following day.

An hour after the crash, Rexroat’s blood alcohol content was 0.29 percent, more than three times the legal limit of 0.08, and he also had a small amount of marijuana in his system.

Nabila Lacey was one of several relatives of people killed by drunk drivers to testify before the state Legislature earlier this year, asking for increased prison terms for those convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The legislation, to make the punishment for vehicular homicide equal to that for manslaughter, passed unanimously in the House in February, and the Senate last week approved it 46-0. The bill was delivered to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature on Tuesday.

Under the new law, the penalty for vehicular-homicide DUI will be 6 ½ to 8 ½ years, up from the standard sentence of 2 ½ to nearly 3 ½ years in prison.

“It feels good we were able to change the law. It doesn’t feel so great that so many people had to die,” Lacey said outside the courtroom.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com