STANWOOD — Since April 2020, Ceanna Diller’s family hasn’t been able to go a day without thinking of her.
They think of her hopes and dreams dashed in an instant when she died in a high-speed crash in Stanwood on the afternoon of April 10, 2020. She was 20.
Her younger brother has turned distrustful and has trouble sleeping at night. Her grandmother wishes she had tried talking Diller out of moving to Washington.
Ilya Hrudzko, now 28, was driving that day. Diller was his passenger. He still keeps a picture of her in his car.
On Monday, a judge sentenced Hrudzko to 6½ years for Diller’s death.
“Ceanna had the brightest smile and loved with her whole heart,” her friend since kindergarten wrote to Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss prior to sentencing. “No one can come close to the friend she was to me. Still is, in spirit.”
Around 3:30 p.m. on the day of the crash, a Stanwood woman was working in her garden on 80th Avenue NW in Stanwood when she heard an Audi convertible zoom by and bottom out. Then, she heard a “horrendous crunch,” the woman later told investigators.
Hrudzko had driven into a tree, prosecutors alleged. The Audi was deformed into a “C” shape. The force of the crash tore the engine out.
Hrudzko had been ejected from the car, leaving him mostly uninjured. Diller was tangled in her seatbelt. She died at the scene. He told witnesses he swerved the Audi to avoid an animal and lost control.
Hrudzko later told authorities he’d had four beers and was driving 45 to 50 mph. His eyes were glossy, a detective noted. A blood sample determined his blood-alcohol content was 0.099, above the 0.08 legal limit.
A collision investigator found gouges in the pavement from the Audi’s undercarriage hitting the ground. He concluded the Audi was going 90 to 102 mph, far faster than Hrudzko estimated. The speed limit there was 35.
The investigator determined the Audi skipped across the field, rolling several times. Hrudzko was ejected before the car hit the tree.
In late 2021, prosecutors charged Hrudzko in Snohomish County Superior Court with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence and in a reckless manner.
In October, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, but only while driving in a reckless manner, not while driving under the influence.
Under state sentencing guidelines, the defendant faced between 6½ and 8½ years. At sentencing Monday, deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow pushed for the low end of that range.
Hrudzko’s attorney John Henry Browne argued for a sentence of just three years, below the standard range. A high-profile Seattle defense attorney, Browne also represented Ted Bundy and the Barefoot Bandit.
Browne called the standard range “excessive,” noting state law holds that a judge can sentence a defendant below that range if they are convicted of vehicular homicide by driving in a reckless manner and have committed no other traffic offenses.
Court records show Hrudzko had no prior criminal history. Records list addresses for him in Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrace, Lake Stevens and Arlington. He remained out of custody during the criminal proceedings.
At sentencing Monday, Hrudzko apologized to Diller’s family.
“It’s really hard for me, too, because she was a friend of mine, as well,” he said in court. “Those memories will always stick in my heart … In these three years, I grew so much more as a man and a person and every decision I make, I think three times before doing it.”
Hrudzko’s fiancée Tallen Cooper, who also said she was the victim’s best friend, pleaded for a lenient sentence.
“I’ve already lost her,” she told the judge. “I’m begging you. Please do not take him too.”
In a courtroom packed with Hrudzko’s friends and family, Weiss decided to sentence the defendant to 6½ years. The judge noted he doesn’t think Hrudzo is a bad person.
“I hope you never forget what happened,” Weiss said. “I want to wish you the best of luck in the future.”
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
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