A 57-year-old man has been sentenced to a little more than two years in prison for driving under the influence of drugs and crashing his car in Tacoma, killing his wife in the passenger seat.

Leonard Johnson was sentenced Friday in Pierce County Superior Court to 27 months in prison for the July 14, 2020 crash on Waller Road that resulted in the death of 44-year-old Lisa Sanford. He pleaded guilty in October to vehicular homicide and felony driving under the influence.

The prison time the defendant received is the high end of the standard sentencing range for those convicted in similar cases. Johnson does not have any prior criminal history, according to court records.

Sanford was born in Aberdeen and grew up in Elma, where she graduated from Elma High School in 1995, according to her obituary. She also attended Wyoming Technical College where she trained as an automotive technician. Sanford later changed careers to work as a medical billing specialist. According to the obituary, she had planned to start a new job the day after the fatal crash occurred.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded at about 9:30 p.m. to the crash near the 4600 block of Waller Road, a two-lane road just east of Tacoma’s city limits. According to the declaration for determination of probable cause, deputies found a 2000 Volkswagen Passat off the roadway resting on its roof. Deputies determined that Johnson veered off the road going north and struck a raised area where there were large rocks, a stump and a mailbox.

Both people were removed from the car, and Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene. Johnson was put on a gurney, where prosecutors allege he told a deputy he took Percocet for pain about an hour before the incident.

Johnson was transported to Tacoma General Hospital, where his blood was drawn. The defendant was charged more than a year later after toxicology results returned indicating Johnson’s blood contained fentanyl and norfentanyl at the time of the crash.

In his guilty plea statement, Johnson wrote that he fell asleep at the wheel.

Sanford’s sister, Val-Rae Lindenau, wrote in a victim impact statement submitted to the court that she was exhausted by waiting for justice and for closure in her sister’s death. She described Johnson as a kind person who needs help.

“I ask for a justice that allows Lenny to serve enough time that he can get the help he needs,” Lindenau wrote. “Help with his addictions, and help with whatever traumas he is bearing that led him to the path of addiction.”

Johnson attended treatment for opioid use disorder with the Puyallup Tribal Health Authority for more than a year, according to sentencing documents. In July, a doctor wrote that she saw “tremendous growth” in Johnson’s overall health during treatment.

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Peter Talbot covers crime and breaking news in Pierce County. He started with The News Tribune in 2021. Before that, he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. In college, he worked as an intern at NPR in Washington, D.C. He also interned for the Oregonian and the Tampa Bay Times.


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