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Woman at center of six-car crash in Lacey refused to appear in court

The 24-year-old woman, who is accused of triggering a six-car crash in Lacey last week that ultimately resulted in a death, has since made two preliminary appearances in Thurston County Superior Court, court records show.
The 24-year-old woman, who is accused of triggering a six-car crash in Lacey last week that ultimately resulted in a death, has since made two preliminary appearances in Thurston County Superior Court, court records show. Courtesy

The 24-year-old woman who is accused of triggering a six-car crash in Lacey last week that ultimately resulted in a death, has since made two preliminary appearances in Thurston County Superior Court, court records show.

Although Yoani Cruz-Cruz, 24, of Lacey, has remained in custody since she was arrested, she refused to appear in court on a preliminary basis last week. That resulted in the state seeking a court order to use “reasonably necessary restraints and/or force” to bring her into the jail’s video room for a court appearance on Wednesday.

A Superior Court Judge has since found probable cause for one count of vehicular homicide and two counts of hit-and-run with a death, according to court information. She is being held on $500,000 bail.

The court also has ordered that she receive a pretrial mental health evaluation; a competency hearing is set for next month, according to court information.

About 9:30 a.m. Nov. 7, the Lacey woman was westbound on Martin Way at College Street Southeast. Witnesses reported that she was driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic and even into oncoming traffic, before she crashed.

After the crash, according to court records, several bystanders held onto Cruz while she was on the sidewalk. Once they let go of her, she started to walk away from the scene. A Lacey police officer finally detained her.

“I asked her what had happened,” the court records read. “Cruz asked if I loved God and then began talking about random things.”

An 81-year-old woman was injured in that crash. She was first taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital and later Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She died there Nov. 9.

Her son, Anthony Penders of Spokane, identified her Thursday as Molly Jo Penders of Lacey.

Molly Jo Penders.JPG
Molly Jo Penders, 81, of Lacey, died Friday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after she was involved in a six-car crash in Lacey on Nov. 7. Anthony Penders Courtesy

He said his mother was a longtime stay-at-home mom until her children were out of the house. Then she became a talented painter, he said, someone who won awards and had her paintings shown at area galleries.

Penders said he was “utterly shocked” by his mother’s death, recalling her as a woman who was “mentally sharp” as a tack.

“She was dad’s brain; he was her physicality,” he said.

His mother was born in Illinois, grew up in Minnesota and Maryland, and later married his father, whom she met in Guam, Anthony Penders said. His father served in the Air Force. They later settled in Lacey. He thought his mother took up art around 2000, Penders said.

“Instead of doing nothing, she threw herself into art,” he said.

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