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Man rescued from White Pass cliff crash to be sentenced on Jan. 25

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - A Yelm man who drove off a cliff near White Pass hours before he was supposed to be sentenced for felony extortion appeared in court on Friday.

A Pierce County judge denied the prosecutor’s request for Chris LaRue, 42, to be held without bail until his new sentencing date on Jan. 25. He was released on the $20,000 bail he posted following his arrest in February 2018, said Pierce County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Bradford Hoshimoto.  

A police investigation found that he took his ex-girlfriend’s cell phone when they broke up and refused to return it unless she paid a substantial amount of money, according to a probable cause affidavit. 

He also used the phone to access the woman’s social media accounts and change her passwords so she couldn’t access her photos, including photos of her recently deceased father. He then offered to return one photo for each time she would have sex with him, the affidavit said. 

LaRue was found guilty of first-degree extortion by a jury on December 12, 2018. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest last week when he didn’t show up for his sentencing on Jan. 11, the same day as the crash. The warrant was quashed by a judge during Friday’s hearing. 

He crashed while driving eastbound on State Route 12 in a Ford F-250 pickup truck pulling a trailer. He was rescued when someone called 911 around 3 a.m. after noticing a gap in the snow bank where he went off the road, according to the Washington State Patrol. 

The story generated widespread attention when LaRue wrote about the experience in a GoFundMe page he created the day after the crash.

He said a westbound driver crossed into his lane and forced him off the road, causing him to plunge 700 feet down an embankment. He was bruised and needed stitches but otherwise did not suffer major injuries. WSP said the cause is still under investigation.

After KAPP-KVEW broke the news of his sentencing, LaRue updated his GoFundMe page to deny the crime he was convicted of.

“I swear before the Bible and the Constitution that I did not commit this act of extortion,” LaRue wrote. “Such a disgusting vulgar act is not within my soul. I am a family man with morals and ethics. I went through the pains of watching my own father dying and I would never steal those precious memories away from someone else.”

He said he was out late on the night of the crash to sell his tractor to “afford a better lawyer.”

The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office said he 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.

He is facing anywhere from six months in jail to a year in prison. 

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