Troopers investigate confrontation on Seward Highway

Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2000

ANCHORAGE - An outbreak of road rage on the Seward Highway over the weekend left a middle-aged couple fearing for their lives and two Soldotna brothers charged with assault, Alaska State Troopers said.

The four-vehicle incident began near Bird Creek, southeast of Anchorage near Turnagain Arm, and ended about 45 miles later at the highway's Hope junction.

``It just got out of hand,'' Trooper Mark Ridling said. ``I was glad nobody had guns.''

Jesse Leadens, 18, was arrested on four assault charges - two felonies and two misdemeanors - as well as a felony criminal mischief count, troopers said. His 20-year-old brother, Matthew Leadens, was charged with reckless driving and two counts of misdemeanor assault.

But the brothers contend they were the innocent victims of an assault and a hit-and-run. Their father, Jeff Leadens, said he has hired a lawyer and plans to file lawsuits.

The Seward-area couple said the incident began about 9:30 p.m. Saturday when a green pickup truck tailgated their car, passed them on the right and then cut them off when it came back into the southbound lane.

``They felt like they were forced across the center line,'' Ridling told the Anchorage Daily News. ``And the guy was understandably angry about that.''

Charging documents against Jesse Leadens identified the couple as William and Lynne Lawrence.

Matthew Leadens denied there had been any kind of incident near Bird Creek. ``I thought it was like a regular passing,'' he said.

The couple later saw the truck parked at a service station near Girdwood and pulled over, troopers said.

``Words were exchanged. Insults. Tempers got even further inflamed,'' Ridling said. William Lawrence slapped Matthew Leadens' face, the charging documents said.

Troopers said the couple then proceeded down the road. But a short time later they saw three vehicles following them, so they pulled off the road at the Hope Junction, hoping they'd go by, the couple told Ridling.

The couple told troopers the trailing vehicles also pulled over and boxed their car in. One of the trucks and the couple's car collided, Ridling said.

The couple was allowed to leave when they pulled out a cell phone and threatened to call police, troopers said.

Matthew Leadens said he stopped at the Hope Cutoff only to get the car's license plate number and to talk with the driver. Jesse Leadens said he was just driving down the highway when the small car suddenly pulled back onto the highway, hit his truck and sped off.

``The cop took his story just because I have a bigger vehicle,'' Jesse Leadens said. ``It kind of made us mad. He treated us like young, dumb idiots.''

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