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Sept. 20, 2020

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Woman accused in fatal hit-and-run crash appears in court

Bail set at $200,000; arraignment scheduled for Sept. 25

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

A woman accused in a fatal hit-and-run crash earlier this month in Vancouver was allegedly driving over 60 mph in a 35 mph zone when she struck a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The victim, 56-year-old Thomas Sawyer, died of his injuries at a local hospital.

Harley Marie Anderson, 21, appeared via video Monday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of vehicular homicide and hit-and-run resulting in death. Anderson began to cry as the judge read the allegations against her.

According to the prosecution, at the time of the Sept. 2 crash, Anderson had a pending case in Clark County District Court for driving under the influence and bail jumping.

Judge John Fairgrieve set Anderson’s bail at $200,000. She will be arraigned Sept. 25.

Vancouver police were called at about 6:40 p.m. for an injury crash at East Mill Plain and Grand boulevards. It was reported that a light-colored SUV had struck a pedestrian and then sped away, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Upon arrival, police found Sawyer lying in the middle of the westbound lanes of Mill Plain on the northwest corner of the intersection, the affidavit says. He suffered significant injuries to his head and body, police said, and was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he later died.

Witnesses told police that Sawyer was in the crosswalk on the east side of the intersection when the westbound SUV struck him. The SUV continued west and did not return to the scene, court records state.

Video surveillance obtained from a nearby gas station captured the light-colored GMC Envoy fleeing the scene. Police also found the passenger’s side mirror and other parts of the vehicle at the scene, according to court documents.

Police released the vehicle information to the public and received a number of tips.

A witness reported seeing the vehicle traveling west on East 13th Street and then north on Reserve Street after the crash. The witness saw a passenger throw a beer bottle out of the window, and he said he heard the passenger tell the driver where to turn and to drive faster. A broken beer bottle was found in the area, the affidavit says.

Police retrieved video surveillance from several C-Tran bus stops in the area that captured the suspect vehicle, with damage to the front passenger’s side fender, according to court records.

On Sept. 3, police searched the neighborhoods surrounding the crash scene and found the suspect vehicle parked in the front yard of a house in the 1100 block of East 40th Avenue. They contacted the residents who said the vehicle belonged to their roommate, Anderson, the affidavit states.

The residents said they arrived home that night and found the GMC parked in their yard; Anderson was not home. They said they didn’t know how the damage occurred and decided to try to fix it, court documents say. Police subsequently seized the vehicle.

Data recorded by the SUV showed it was traveling 62 mph at the time of the crash, police said. The posted speed limit in that area is 35 mph.

On Sept. 10, police contacted Anderson’s father and brother, who both said she admitted to being the driver in the fatal crash. Her brother said she told him “she was driving around the corner, it was too bright, she couldn’t see, she didn’t know what she hit until she got to the house,” according to the affidavit.

That same day, a 911 caller, identified as Braden Branch, reported that Anderson was posting about the crash on Facebook and messaging him about it.

“If I don’t respond within the next few days imma miss you all. Forever scream #FreeHarley2020. God I’m so so so sorry for this. It was all an accident. I’m scared. I didn’t wanna run, but I will make my amends …” Anderson posted on Facebook, according to the affidavit.

In the message exchange, Branch asked Anderson why she didn’t stay to help after the crash, to which she replied she was scared and didn’t know what she hit at first. Branch urged her to turn herself in, court records say.

On Friday, Clark County sheriff’s deputies located Anderson riding in a stolen car near northeast 29th Avenue and Northeast 170th Street. Vancouver police responded to arrest her.

According to officer notes on Anderson’s pre-booking sheet, she slammed her head on the patrol vehicle during her arrest and was treated at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

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