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Man rescued from White Pass cliff crash faces sentencing for extortion

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. - A Washington man who was rescued last week after driving off a cliff near White Pass was supposed to be sentenced for felony extortion that same day.

The Washington State Patrol says Christopher LaRue, 42, of Yelm was driving eastbound on State Route 12 early Friday when he went off the road in a red Ford F-250 pulling a trailer. A state transportation worker called 911 around 3 a.m. after noticing a gap in a snow bank where LaRue went off the road.

In a GoFundMe page created by LaRue, he said a westbound driver crossed into his lane and forced him off the road, causing him to plunge 700 feet down an embankment. WSP said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

LaRue said he pulled himself from the wreckage and walked about a mile before taking shelter next to a tree. A WSP sergeant rappelled down the cliff, tracked LaRue's footprints in the snow and helped rescue him.

Shortly after the crash, KAPP-KVEW learned that a Pierce County jury had found LaRue guilty of first-degree extortion on December 12, 2018. A police investigation found LaRue had taken his ex-girlfriend’s cell phone and refused to return it unless she paid substantial amounts of money, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“The phone contained numerous pictures of [his ex-girlfriend’s] father, who recently passed away,” the affidavit said.

LaRue accessed the woman’s social media accounts and changed her passwords so she was unable to see the photos, then offered to return the photos if she agreed to have sex with him. He texted her saying he would delete the photos unless she complied within 24 hours, adding that it was “not a ‘big deal’ because they had sex in the past,” the affidavit said.

The woman did not respond to the text and instead called police. The affidavit said LaRue “did not seem to be surprised that he was being arrested.”

LaRue was supposed to be sentenced in Tacoma on Friday, January 11, the day of the crash.

Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Bradford Hoshimoto said LaRue was restricted from traveling outside Pierce, King, Thurston or Kitsap counties prior to his sentencing. The prosecutor and WSP say he violated his conditions of release by being in Yakima County, where the crash occurred.

Hoshimoto said a warrant for his arrest has been issued for LaRue for failure to appear in court. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Friday, January 18.

LaRue is facing anywhere from six months in jail to a year in prison for his crime. 

His lawyer was not immediately available for comment. 

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