TOPEKA (KSNT) – A Kansas dad is holding out hope that justice will be carried out following the death of his daughter in a tragic car crash earlier this year.

KSNT 27 News spoke with James Lee whose teenage daughter, Alyssa Lee, was killed after a driver going the wrong-way down Highway 75 hit her vehicle in February, 2023. Months have passed since the crash and his daughter’s funeral, but James is still fighting to make sure Alyssa is remembered.

“There have been no fewer than five court proceedings so far,” James said. “The only times when her name was said was when I said it. The only reason this court case exists, the only reason this case is at the court, is because Alyssa isn’t here.”

James says Alyssa’s name deserves to be heard at every proceeding for the man charged in her death. That man, Anthony R. Tugwell, is currently being held at the Shawnee County Department of Corrections on a $500,000 bond.

Tugwell was arrested just days after the fatal collision in Shawnee County on charges of aggravated assault, driving under the influence and driving on the opposite direction of a highway. Tugwell was later charged by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office with the charge of murder in the second degree added three months after the crash. His charges include:

  • Murder in the second degree
  • Involuntary manslaughter; while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving under the influence; 1st conv; combination of drugs and alcohol
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper crossover on divided highway

James said he is frustrated with the progress of the case against Tugwell. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said a motion hearing is set for Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. but no trial date has been set yet.

“He’s [Tugman] still been in jail… his bond is beyond his means of paying,” James said. “He’s proven himself to be a danger to the public.”

The case weighs heavily on James’ mind, especially since his workplace is near the Shawnee County Department of Corrections. While waiting for the trial to start, James does what he can by attending as many of the court proceedings involving Tugwell so he can say his daughter’s name.

“She’s not here to represent herself,” James said. “She’s not here to have a career to serve the world. It’s my mission to spread her legacy.”

James said his daughter was in her junior year at Sante Fe High School in Osage County and had her eyes set on higher education.

“She wanted to help people, she wanted to go into the mental health field,” James said. “She was an advocate for people. She was always a shy kid but she was learning to use her voice to advocate for people, marginalized people of any degree. She wanted to do that by helping people in the mental health field.”

Alyssa’s obituary said she loved horses and working at a ranch in the summer months. She enjoyed spending time with her dogs, her boyfriend and playing the guitar with friends. Her music included renditions of Fleetwood Mac, Taylor Swift and Paramore songs.

For more local news, click here. Keep up with the latest breaking news in northeast Kansas by downloading our mobile app.