Woman accused in fatal April motorcycle crash case

James Luden, 54, was killed in the Padden Parkway crash

By Paris Achen and Emily Gillespie

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An Amboy woman stands accused of driving under the influence of methamphetamine and with a suspended license when her vehicle struck and killed a motorcyclist.

James Luden, 54, of Vancouver was killed while stopped at a traffic light on Vancouver’s Padden Parkway on April 14.

Dressed in a green suicide-prevention smock, Tanya Marie Leffler, 34, appeared Thursday morning in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of one count of vehicular homicide. Judge Barbara Johnson set bail at $75,000, which Leffler had posted by Thursday afternoon.

She’s scheduled to be arraigned on the charge July 24.

Leffler was behind the wheel of a 2010 Mitsubishi Galant driving west when she struck a 2010 Harley-Davidson stopped in a left-turn lane at the intersection of Northeast 94th Avenue, according to a court affidavit.

“All three westbound lanes of traffic were stopped for a red signal,” Clark County sheriff’s Detective James Payne wrote in the affidavit. “Several vehicles were stopped in each of the lanes. Leffler failed to slow for the stopped traffic. Twenty-five feet prior to impact, Leffler took an evasive maneuver by steering to the left and sharply applying the brakes.”

She was traveling at a speed of 50 to 55 mph when she struck the rear of Luden’s motorcycle, Payne wrote.

The force of the impact ejected Luden from the motorcycle, and the back of his head struck a part of the car frame on the front passenger side of the Galant, according to the affidavit. The impact flipped Luden’s body in the air and propelled him 28 feet to the west. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheriff’s traffic Sgt. Dennis Pritchard said that the agency waited three months for the results of toxicology tests, which are handled by the Washington State Patrol crime laboratory. The results show Leffler was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time of the crash, according to the affidavit.

Johnson ordered Leffler not to consume alcohol or drugs as conditions of her release, but Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said the court no longer has funding to impose random drug testing to ensure she abides by the rules.

At the time of the crash, Leffler’s driver’s license was suspended for failure to appear on an unpaid ticket, according to the affidavit. It had been suspended since December 2001. Her vehicle also lacked insurance at the time of the crash, the affidavit says.

Vu said while the investigation was pending, Leffler was again caught driving with a suspended license.

“I did not know my license was suspended,” Leffler said in court Thursday morning.

She said she plans to hire Vancouver defense attorney Steven Thayer, even though, according to the judge, she qualifies for a court-appointed attorney.

Jimmy Luden, James Luden’s son, said that his father touched a lot of lives — more than 1,000 people attended his memorial.

“That day was such a tragic day for me and my family,” he said in a message. “The great man was lost due to a careless act of a driver … (too) many good people are lost everyday in situations that could be avoided.”

He added a plea to all motorists: “Please pay attention when you get behind the wheel.”

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