A man from Washington state has been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for fatally injuring his girlfriend in a crash that occurred as he led law enforcement officers in a high-speed chase in Yolo County.
A Yolo County jury in October convicted 23-year-old Thomas Phillip Leae of Renton, Wash., of second-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Ailiana Siufanua of Des Moines, Wash. The jury also found Leae guilty of evading police causing death and vehicle theft. He was sentenced Wednesday by Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Reed, according to a District Attorney’s Office news release.
In addition to the sentence for murder, Reed sentenced Leae to 10 years and eight months in prison for the other charges.
On Oct. 5, 2015, Leae stole a 1999 Honda in Auburn, Wash. He and his girlfriend, Siufanua, used the vehicle to conduct surveillance and later rob and murder a jewelry store owner in Vancouver, Wash, on Nov. 25, 2015. Siufanua entered the store with a loaded gun and shot the owner when he tried to resist, the news release said. Surveillance video of the robbery showed Siufanua taking cash, jewelry and silver antiques.
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Leae was waiting outside in the Honda and drove away with Siufanua after the robbery.
The Vancouver Police Department alerted the media in surrounding areas and released photos of Leae and Siufanua following the murder. The two fled south, and California Highway Patrol officers spotted the vehicle speeding late at night on southbound Interstate 5 in Glenn County.
Leae led officers on a chase through three counties at speeds reaching 110 mph, the news release said. In Arbuckle, Leae exited the freeway and his vehicle spun out due to CHP maneuvers. But he continued to evade officers, entering the freeway and traveling southbound in the northbound lanes. He drove for eight miles, with no lights, into oncoming traffic at speeds reaching 80 mph, according to the news release.
Leae drove through Yolo County until he reached the Tony Diaz Memorial Rest Stop in Dunnigan and drove into the rest stop traveling 82 mph, CHP officers testified. Realizing he could not negotiate the turn, Leae slammed on the brakes and the Honda, traveling 66 mph, hit a tree at the rest stop exit, the news release said.
Leae was seriously injured and Siufanua, who was not wearing her seat belt, was killed.