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Police arrest suspect in fatal accident


Police on Monday found and arrested the driver of a pickup they suspect ran a red light earlier that morning at a north Medford intersection and hit a van of workers headed to a reforestation project, killing one worker and seriously injuring three others.

Leta Schroeder, 34, allegedly abandoned her truck and ran from the scene of the 3:40 a.m. crash at the intersection of Crater Lake and North Pacific highways near the Rogue Valley Mall, police said. After a day of searching for her, investigators caught up with Schroeder at a residence in the 3700 block of Jane Ann Lane off Avenue H in White City and arrested her, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

Jackson County sheriff's deputies received a tip that she was there and deputies found and detained Schroeder at the residence exactly 14 hours after the wreck, Budreau said.

Medford police then responded and arrested her on a single charge of hit-and-run driving, "and we'll see about additional charges when (detectives) are done talking to her," Budreau said.

When she was found, she was suffering from undisclosed injuries police believe she sustained in the crash, Budreau said.

Schroeder, who also is known as Leta Ortiz, was taken by ambulance to Providence Medford Medical Center for treatment and was still there with detectives late Monday night, Budreau said.

The crash occurred when Schroeder's truck allegedly traveled west on Crater Lake Highway and struck the passenger van traveling north on North Pacific Highway in the intersection, police said.

Witnesses said the truck ran a red light, but that had not yet been confirmed, Budreau said.

The van was knocked on its side, spraying pieces of both vehicles across the pavement, authorities said.

"There was debris scattered all over the place," Medford fire Battalion Chief Ken Goodson said.

The van was carrying seven crew members from Pacific Coast Contracting out of Central Point, a reforestation company, police said.

One victim was pronounced dead at Providence Medford Medical Center. A second victim was listed in critical condition Monday, police said. The other two victims were reported to be in serious but stable condition. The remaining three crew members in the van were uninjured, police said.

None of the victims' names has been released.

It was unknown whether alcohol or illegal drugs were involved in the case, Budreau said.

"It's something we're definitely going to look into," Budreau said.

Investigators had suspected that Schroeder had been hurt in the wreck, and they notified all Southern Oregon hospitals to be on the alert for her, Budreau said.

Medford-Fire Rescue was aided by crews from Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and law enforcement.

"The scene was pretty chaotic," Budreau said.

Pacific Coast owner Juan Bautista said he's never experienced a situation like this in his career.

"At this point we're just praying for the ones that are still in the hospital," Bautista said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

An Oregon State Police trooper investigates a hit-and-run crash that left one person dead and three injured at the corner of Crater Lake Highway and North Pacific Highway early Monday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch