No new leads in Washougal stabbing death

Sandy Ladd, a former Washougal School District employee, was found dead in her home on June 14

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Washougal resident Sandy Ladd, (second from right), who died in June, was "an amazing mom and grandma" to her four children and six grandchildren, according to her daughter, Mikaela Sasse. Pictured are Ladd's grandchildren (from left to right): Emma Sasse, Ben Sasse and Hunter Sasse. (Contributed photo courtesy of Mikaela Sasse)

Washougal police say there are no new leads in the Sandy Ladd homicide investigation.

Ladd, a longtime Washougal School District employee, was found stabbed to death in her Washougal home on June 14.

“(There are) no new updates,” Washougal police detective Kate Tierney told the Post-Record on July 15. “It is still a very active case.”

“It breaks my heart that someone would do this,” said Vancouver resident Mikaela Sasse, Ladd’s daughter. “I just still can’t believe it. I just hope justice will be served so we can have closure and grieve her death the best we can. She was an amazing mom and grandma.”

Ladd loved a lot of things, including her family; gardening; wearing big, fancy jewelry; traveling, especially to Hawaii; and making onion rings at her Burgerville job.

Ladd, 71, worked at a Burgerville in east Vancouver from 1996 until earlier this year, when the company furloughed employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Ladd’s) expectation was that when ‘onion ring season’ arrived, that was her job,” said Kelli Orthmeyer, manager of a Burgerville restaurant in Portland and Ladd’s coworker from 2013-18. “Preparing the Walla Walla onion rings gave her pride in a Burgerville authentic product that we serve. She made the most beautiful, delicious, perfect onion rings every day. That was her pride and joy. The intent was to bring her back when we started to open our dining rooms. She definitely would’ve been the ‘onion ring person’ this summer.”

Ladd worked as an administrative assistant and receptionist for the Washougal School District, lasted from 1987 until 2015. During that time, she worked at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School and assisted with the school district’s special services and summer meal programs. Ladd also was active with Washington’s Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, which trains classified staff members around the state.

Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton said Ladd worked multiple jobs to help make ends meet as a single parent and to provide her children with educational opportunities.

“After leaving Washougal schools, she continued to work at Burgerville in east Vancouver and loved running into former colleagues, students and friends,” Templeton said. “She cared deeply for those she served and worked with. Sandy’s work made a difference in the lives of others, and she worked hard to do what was right in each situation.”

“She was very good with details,” Les Brown, Washougal School District’s communications and information technology director, added. “She knew everyone and how to find an answer to anything. She built relationships with everyone, and cared a lot about why people needed help and used her various roles to be a big support to those around her. She was very dependable, did whatever it took and worked a lot of hours outside of the normal school day supporting the superintendent and school board.”

Kathy Douglas-Evans, an education technician with the school district, said Ladd was helpful and always willing to lend a hand on a project.

Orthmeyer said Ladd “glowed with energy, love and sweetness.”

“I’ll miss her laugh. She had such a cute laugh,” Orthmeyer said. “It was powerful, but also really dainty. I’ll miss the sound of her voice. She had such a sweet voice. I don’t know what perfume she wore, but if I ever smell that perfume again, I’ll be reminded of her. She always had really nice jewelry — she wore big, dangly earrings, and she always had her hair done up nice. I nicknamed her ‘Sandy Cheeks,’ after the ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ character. One day I brought her a ‘Sandy’ doll, and she laughed so hard she cried. She was so fun.”

Family friend Becky Vredenburg wrote on Ladd’s online obituary that Ladd was “one of the hardest working people (she has) ever known.”

“Sandy taught me at a very young age that working hard is the only way to get where you want to be in life,” Vredenburg, an information technician for the Camas School District, stated. “She also showed me that you do whatever it takes to take care of your family. She put up with a lot, but was always there for her family when they needed her. Everything she did was for others. She was incredibly selfless.”

Ladd was born in Portland, graduated from Washougal High School in 1967, earned an associates of arts degree from Clark College and attended the University of Washington.

“Early on, Sandy served as one of my mentors to help me better understand the community, our patrons, district history and personnel,” said former Washougal School District Superintendent Bob Donaldson, who led the district from 1997 to 2005. “She was very professional, even during stressful times, and I always observed that she treated everyone with respect and a caring attitude. One of her strengths that meant a lot to me was her integrity. She was involved in many confidential issues and never once did I have to worry about hearsay. During some of this time, our daughter was a single mom attending Clark College. Sandy was a good listener for her and helped her adjust to the new community.”

Orthmeyer also said that Ladd was a good listener.

“My youngest son has struggled with things in his life, and she gave great advice about parenting that was very relatable to some of the situations I was going through at the time,” she said. “She definitely had an impact on how I handled difficult situations. We had a lot of deep conversations over the years about life, and she always listened and had useful things to say.”

Orthmeyer said she believed Ladd, a widow, was living alone at the time of her death.

Ladd is survived by four children — Sasse, Jaymes Ladd of Yacolt, Ryan Ladd of Washougal and Trevor Paul Ladd of Washougal; and six grandchildren.

“She didn’t talk about much outside of work other than her family, and was incredibly committed and supportive of her family,” Douglas-Evans said. “They were her world.”