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June 26, 2022

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Driver in fatal ’14 Halloween crash sentenced to 16 years

Cadence Boyer, 7, killed; three others injured

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:
5 Photos
Emotions ran high for friends and family of Cadence Boyer as Duane C. Abbott was sentenced Friday morning in Clark County Superior Court to more than 16 years in prison. Abbott struck and killed the 7-year-old girl and seriously injured several others while driving under the influence of drugs on Halloween night last year.
Emotions ran high for friends and family of Cadence Boyer as Duane C. Abbott was sentenced Friday morning in Clark County Superior Court to more than 16 years in prison. Abbott struck and killed the 7-year-old girl and seriously injured several others while driving under the influence of drugs on Halloween night last year. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

It was an emotional scene in Superior Court on Friday as the driver who struck and killed 7-year-old Cadence Boyer while she was trick-or-treating Halloween night last year was sentenced to more than 16½ years in prison.

Cadence’s family called the sentencing a bittersweet ending.

Duane C. Abbott tearfully apologized for the first time to the Boyers, and to the other victims who were seriously injured in the crash.

“I’m very sorry for all the pain and suffering I’ve caused to the victims and their families,” he said, adding that he’s been unable to get that night out of his head.

“Saying I’m sorry isn’t enough, but it’s all I have,” he said.

Abbott, 48, was driving under the influence of marijuana and methamphetamine when his 1967 Ford Mustang struck Cadence; her mother, Annie Boyer; 30-year-old Chelina Alsteen; and 6-year-old Ava Carrodus while they were walking on a sidewalk along Northeast 112th Avenue in Vancouver.

The Vancouver man pleaded guilty earlier this month in Clark County Superior Court to vehicular homicide and three counts of vehicular assault.

More than 50 people, mostly friends and family of Cadence and the other victims, packed into the small courtroom, many wearing remembrance shirts and holding photos of the little girl. By the time the hearing started, it was standing-room only.

Cathy Boyer, Cadence’s paternal grandmother, was the first to speak on behalf of the victims.

“Sunday dinners are not the same. We have one empty chair,” she said. As she held up photos of Cadence, Abbott bowed his head and began to cry.

Annie Boyer told the court that on the day of the crash Cadence had been upset about her grandparents’ dog dying several months prior. Boyer said she had to explain that the dog was in heaven. She said her daughter grappled with the answer.

“How ironic that I (now) know the same feeling she did that day,” Boyer said.

According to court documents, Abbott told police he was changing lanes when he lost control of his vehicle and drove onto the sidewalk, striking the victims and a utility pole at about 8:20 p.m.

Abbott later told police he would smoke 2 to 3 grams of marijuana daily and that he smoked his last joint three hours before the crash, court records said.

Ava’s maternal grandfather, Chuck Kellstadt, refused to the call the crash an “accident.”

“When a person high on amphetamines, methamphetamines and marijuana … chooses to go out and hot-rod his car on Halloween, this is not an accident,” Kellstadt said. “Ava was hit from behind and knocked out of her boots, landing on the ground unconscious. Thanks to God and several well-trained good Samaritans, they resuscitated her back to life or she would have joined Cadence in heaven.”

All four victims were rushed to local hospitals after the crash. Ava was treated and released from the hospital about a week later.

Cadence suffered a broken back and had no blood flow to her brain. She was on life support at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland before she died two days later.

Annie Boyer suffered a crushed pelvis and broken shoulder, arm and vertebra.

Alsteen sustained the most serious injuries among the survivors. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones, including a broken spine and leg, and was treated at Vibra Specialty Hospital of Portland for several months.

For the first time since the crash, Alsteen attended Abbott’s court hearing. She has been in and out of hospitals recovering from her injuries.

On Friday, she approached the bench with the help of a walker.

“I’ve had to fight to get back what Duane Abbott took from me,” she said. “I want Duane Abbott to know when he comes face-to-face with God, he will be the ultimate judge.”

A tragedy

Abbott’s attorney, Steve Thayer, called the incident a tragedy. “There is no greater loss (than that) of a child,” he said. However, he argued it was an accident and said Abbott was not hot-rodding his car or speeding.

“He has fully accepted responsibility without any discount or negotiation, which is very unusual,” Thayer said. He asked that Abbott receive the low end of the sentencing range, 159 months.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu told the judge that the crash couldn’t have happened on a worse day. He argued that everyone knows small children are out and about on Halloween night.

“He was essentially a loaded gun on our roads, just waiting to go off,” Vu said. He urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence.

In deciding a punishment, Judge Robert Lewis said he had to consider the severity of the victims’ injuries, Abbott’s criminal history, which dates to the mid-1980s, and the impact the crash has had on the community.

“There is no other explanation for what happened that night other than you were impaired,” he told Abbott. He said Abbott has clearly had long-standing issues with drug addiction. He was convicted in 2011 of methamphetamine possession.

Lewis sentenced Abbott to 200 months in prison, the higher end of the sentencing range that he faced. He was given credit for 382 days in custody. His driver’s license will also be revoked.

After the hearing, Annie Boyer said that no punishment will bring back her daughter, but she said she’s “OK” with Abbott’s sentence.

“I just hope something good comes out of this, you know? I don’t want my daughter to basically die in vain,” she said. She added that she’d like to see Abbott change his life and maybe become a speaker on the dangers of intoxicated driving.

“I don’t want it to just go nowhere. I want her to be remembered. I want to do something to honor her because she is worth honoring,” Boyer said.

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