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St. Helens man killed in hit-and-run crash

Deceased Peter Linden, 74, had recently completed chemotherapy treatment


Photo Credit: COURTESY OF ELIE LINDEN - Peter Linden, a St. Helens resident who was killed Saturday, Aug. 30, in a collision while riding his bike along Highway 30 west of Rainier.A St. Helens man was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle along Highway 30 on Saturday, Aug. 30, police said.

Michael Linden, 74, was declared dead at the scene of the accident, just west of Rainier.

Kristopher Lee Woodruff, 34, has been charged with first-degree manslaughter and felony hit and run in connection with Linden’s death. He was arraigned Wednesday in Columbia County Circuit Court.

Woodruff was driving westbound in a Ford pickup truck and became distracted while looking at a text message on his phone, according to the Oregon State Police. His truck drifted onto the shoulder of the highway, striking Linden’s bicycle. The crash was reported to authorities at about 2:56 p.m.

Woodruff continued driving before being stopped by a state trooper about five miles up the road, police said. He was arrested and lodged in the Columbia County Jail.

Woodruff sounded somber and remorseful Wednesday as he addressed Columbia Circuit Judge Ted Grove from his cell via closed-circuit television.

“I’m so sorry,” Woodruff said, lowering his forehead onto the table beneath him. He asked permission to address the courtroom.

“Your honor, is Mr. Linden’s wife in the courtroom?” Woodruff asked.

“She is,” Grove replied.

“I would just like to tell her that I’m very sorry about taking her husband’s life,” Woodruff said, tearfully.

Woodruff’s bail was set at $100,000. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in state prison and a $250,000 fine.

Photo Credit: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Columbia Circuit Judge Ted Grove addresses Kristopher Woodruff during his arraignment Wednesday afternoon via video conference from his jail cell. Woodruff is being held on $100,000 bail in Columbia County Jail.Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison suggested Grove consider Woodruff’s status and his prior warrant from another jurisdiction for failing to appear in court.

“The defendant is a resident of another state, which I believe is North Dakota ... and was working in Washington. He has no real connection to Columbia County and the risk of flight is high,” Atchison said.

Woodruff gave police his North Dakota identification card at the time of his arrest, though family members of Woodruff said he was working in Vancouver, Wash. Police identified his as a Vernonia resident.

At the time of his arrest, Woodruff had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant out of Washington County for failure to appear in court.

Linden was a former city attorney in St. Helens. His wife Elie told KOIN 6 News that he had been battling cancer before his death.

Elie Linden said her husband was an avid biker and an affectionate grandfather to three young girls. Even during times when he was sick from his chemotherapy, she said, he would find the energy to get on his bike and ride.

In some ways, Elie Linden said her husband’s cancer had prepared her emotionally for his passing.

“But it doesn’t take away from the fact that this young man took my husband’s life and that he ran. I have a real difficulty with that,” Elie Linden.

Peter Linden had reportedly just finished his latest round of chemotherapy when he was struck and killed.

“I loved my husband very much and it was heartbreaking for me, the way that he died and that I wasn’t there,” said Elie Linden.

Peter Linden was remembered at a St. Helens City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon. Police Chief Terry Moss described him as “a sweetheart of a man” and said his death should be a reminder for people to stay off their cell phones while driving.

Oregon State Police is investigating the crash with the assistance of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Rainier Police Department. The Columbia County District Attorney’s Office is assisting with the investigation.

KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.