Esko woman pleads guilty to causing fatal accident after drinking
An Esko woman who drove after drinking and struck another car, resulting in the death of a passenger in that car, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular homicide Monday.
Megan Dana Dickenson, 25, amended her earlier plea of not guilty to the charge. A second count of criminal vehicular operation, involving injury to the husband of the victim, will be dismissed at sentencing with the husband’s approval, according to Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler.
“The only agreement about sentencing is that the State will not seek an upward departure from the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines,” said Pertler.
Assistant County Attorney Jeffrey Boucher, who prosecuted the case, explained the guidelines call for a presumptive 48-month prison sentence and said that is what the County Attorney’s office will argue for at sentencing onMay 23. He added he also anticipates Dickenson will argue for less or no executed prison time.
Dickenson has no previous criminal record, according to her attorney, Joanna Weigert.
“Ultimately, the judge will make the decision,” Boucher said.
The accident occurred at the intersection of North Cloquet and Canosia roads in June 1, 2013. According to authorities, Dickenson admitted to drinking before causing the crash that killed Kari Renee Luoma, 34, of Cloquet and seriously injured her husband, Jeremiah Luoma.
According to the complaint filed in the case, Carlton County Sheriff’s deputies were summoned by Dispatch to a two-vehicle crash in Thomson Township at 5:45 p.m.
Law enforcement officers and first responders arrived at the scene and noted there was substantial damage to both the Honda SUV driven by the Luomas and the Ford Focus driven by Dickenson. Kari Luoma was pronounced dead at the scene and her husband appeared to be seriously injured.
Officers spoke to another driver who had witnessed the crash, and he reported that he had just turned from North Cloquet Road southbound onto Canosia and was heading toward Esko when he observed Dickenson’s vehicle traveling northbound and approaching the intersection. The witness said he believed the vehicle was going at or near the posted 50-mph speed limit, and it appeared to him that Dickenson was not going to stop as she approached the intersection. He said he laid on his horn to warn her, but as he observed her in his rear view mirror, he witnessed the collision between Dickenson and the Luoma vehicle.
Based on the observations of a State Patrol reconstructionist who was summoned to the scene, together with the eyewitness statement of the other driver, it was determined the Luomas had approached the intersection traveling southbound on Canosia and were in the process of turning eastbound onto North Cloquet Road. At the same time Dickenson sped into the intersection without stopping at the four-way sign. She then collided with the passenger side of the Luomas’ vehicle as they were making their turn.
As law enforcement officers initially attempted to speak with Dickenson, they detected the odor of alcohol and noted in the complaint that her eyes were bloodshot and watery. She indicated to officers that she had been drinking wine earlier in the day and had just come from a bar in Scanlon where she admitted to having consumed additional alcoholic beverages.