Guilty plea in fatal crash

Central Point woman gets nearly four years after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide
Leta Jean Schroeder, 35, hugs defense attorney Justin Rosas after being sentenced to nearly four years in prison Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court. Schroeder pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide for crashing her pickup into a van of workers, killing Efren Vargas-Urena.

A Central Point woman pleaded guilty Thursday to criminally negligent homicide for crashing her pickup into a van of reforestation workers last July, killing one man and seriously injuring two others.

Leta Jean Schroeder, 35, was sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison and three years of post-prison supervision. She was ordered to pay more than $323,000 in restitution.

Schroeder, who fled the scene after the crash, also pleaded guilty to failure to perform the duties of a driver.

"I am truly sorry for the accident that happened, the loss of life," Schroeder said in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Schroeder is eligible for early release and alternative incarceration programs. She will have her driver's license revoked but can reapply for it in 10 years.

"She needed to be held accountable for (the accident), but I also wanted to make sure she got the treatment that she needed," said prosecuting attorney Nick Geil.

Officials from the Jackson County District Attorney's Office say Schroeder was driving westbound on Crater Lake Highway at speeds of between 50 mph and 60 mph when she ran a red light at about 3:45 a.m. July 23, 2012, slamming into the side of a van carrying seven workers. She fled the scene on foot and was arrested later that day in White City. (Correction: See below)

The crew worked for Pacific Coast Contracting Inc. and was en route to the Glendale area to clear brush. The van was northbound on North Pacific Highway when it was struck.

"It's an important lesson for everyone," said Judge Benjamin Bloom. "There can be tragic consequences when (rules) aren't followed."

Four men were ejected from the van. Efren Vargas-Urena, 23, died in the crash. Arnulfo Anaya-Jiminez, 23, and Dimas Rodriguez, 21, both of Medford, were seriously injured. Pedro Santana-Arriaga, 37, address not known, was also injured. The rest of the crew walked away unharmed.

"This case was a tragedy for everybody that was involved," said defense attorney Justin Rosas. "I know (Schroeder) will carry this forward with her the rest of her life."

Officials from Pacific Coast Contracting Inc. could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Original charges of manslaughter and driving under the influence of intoxicants were dropped. Tests showed there were traces of amphetamines, opiates and oxycodone in Schroeder's system after her arrest, but it's not known whether they were directly involved in impairing her at the time of the crash, prosecutors said.

Geil added that two of the injured crew members were hurt to the point that they cannot return to work, including significant brain damage for one.

"It's tough working cases like this, because nothing that the criminal justice system can do will undo (her) bad decisions," Geil said. "That's very hard."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

Correction: The street the accident occurred on has been corrected in this version.

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