PULLMAN – In a frantic 911 call Saturday evening, Erik Luden said his father had attacked him with a knife before he retaliated, according to court documents.
“I responded,” Luden told the dispatcher. “I hit him with a pot in the head, a kitchen pot.”
But prosecutors are not convinced that Luden acted in self-defense. The 24-year-old was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his father, Virgil Luden, 58, of Sammamish, who was found unresponsive shortly before 5 p.m. on the floor of a College Hill apartment.
Erik Luden, who lived at the apartment, requested an attorney and remained silent after his arrest. He is being held in the Whitman County Jail and appeared Monday in Whitman County Superior Court, where Judge David Frazier set his bond at $500,000. He is scheduled to appear again on Friday.
When they arrived at the apartment Saturday, Pullman police found the younger Luden standing over his motionless father, court documents say.
Officers and paramedics tried to revive Virgil Luden but eventually pronounced him dead at the scene. His airways were blocked and his neck was a dark color, possibly indicating he was choked, and there was a small laceration on each eye, court documents say.
Officers found the metal pot beside Virgil Luden’s head and a bloody butter knife near his left hand. Blood was splattered on the floor and one wall. An autopsy was being performed Monday to confirm the cause of death.
Before he was taken to jail, Erik Luden was taken to Pullman Regional Hospital and treated for broken bones in his right hand and three cuts on his left forearm that doctors said were self-inflicted.
A neighbor told detectives she had heard “a single loud ‘thump’ like a hammer on the floor,” followed by some tapping noises, around 4:30 p.m., court documents say. She didn’t hear any arguing and didn’t know anyone was with Erik Luden, who lived alone and usually was very quiet, she said.
The apartment at 960 NE C St. is in the middle of the College Hill neighborhood beside Washington State University. A property manager said “very few” people are living in the building as many students have left town for the summer. Erik Luden is not listed as a student or employee in the university’s online directory. A cousin of his, Cara Freeman, 27, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said he once was a student but didn’t graduate.
Freeman said Virgil Luden went by Cliff – short for Clifford, his middle name.
“Uncle Cliff was a real professional in his mortgage business,” Freeman said. “Great reputation, very hard working, supported his wife and children.”
Virgil and Shannon Luden, 55, were married nearly 30 years and looking forward to retirement, Freeman said. They also had a daughter, Haley Luden, 21.
And after surveying the crime scene for two days, police still are searching for a motive.
“I think we don’t have even a good working theory on that,” Cmdr. Chris Tennant said.
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