A Cambridge woman charged with leaving the scene of a 2015 crash that resulted in the death of a Princeton woman has pleaded guilty.
According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred shortly after 10 p.m. along Highway 95 in Cambridge near Moon Lake Drive on Nov. 2, 2015, and involved driver Bailey Anne Hanson, 23, and Patricia M. Wolter, 54, who was standing on the highway after the car she was traveling in as a passenger collided with another vehicle and came to rest in a lane of oncoming traffic. The vehicle driven by Hanson struck Wolter, who was later pronounced dead on the scene.
Wolter was traveling in a vehicle driven by her son, Joseph Turner, 37, of Zimmerman.
Hanson pleaded guilty before Judge Jenny Walker Jasper on May 23 in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge to the gross misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of an accident in which an injury or death occurred. Hanson was initially charged Jan. 13, 2017.
Sentencing for Hanson is set for Aug. 1. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution recommended a stay of adjudication of three years probation and up to 90 days in jail at the discretion of the court.
Hanson’s attorney, Douglas Sauter, noted his client has been taking Zoloft for anxiety issues since the incident.
“I panicked,” Hanson said. “I was just hoping that I hadn’t hit her. But looking back at it now, I had to have hit her.”
Jasper asked what Hanson should have done when someone told her to leave the scene if she wasn’t involved. Hanson said she should have stayed.
The judge also noted Hanson was not pleading her guilt to causing the incident but to not staying at the scene.
The Anoka County Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case due to a conflict of interest for the Isanti County Attorney’s Office: Hanson is the daughter of a longtime Cambridge Police officer, and Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad’s office prosecutes cases on behalf of the city of Cambridge, so Edblad’s office reached out to Anoka County for assistance to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
According to the criminal complaint:
At approximately 10 p.m. Nov. 2, 2015, Turner was driving eastbound on 95 in Cambridge with his mother riding in the front seat of his Saturn. The vehicle crossed the center line near Moon Lake Drive and side-swiped a Dodge Caravan, which came to rest on the shoulder.
After the crash, Turner was found to be legally intoxicated with alcohol. He also had oxycodone and morphine in his blood.
The Saturn drove one-tenth of a mile eastbound in the westbound lane before coming to rest facing oncoming traffic. Wolter exited the vehicle and walked behind it to check on its damage. She stood in the oncoming lane of traffic, where there are no street lights and the speed limit is 55 mph.
Hanson was traveling westbound on 95 after completing her work shift when she noticed the Saturn in the wrong lane. She slowed and swerved to avoid it, but struck Wolter, who was thrown 60 feet and died from her injuries.
Hanson stopped her car and ran back to the crash, where she found Wolter on the ground. A good Samaritan began CPR and Hanson called 911. Hanson initially told the 911 operator that she hit something and relayed that Wolter was hurt and on the ground with no heartbeat. During the call, the 911 operator said to Hanson, “You weren’t involved, right?” Hanson agreed and said she was “just driving by.” After finishing the 911 call, Hanson left without providing her name or any other information to law enforcement.
Later Hanson provided a statement to law enforcement where she states she stopped her car and ran back to the scene because she knew she hit “something,” but she didn’t know what. She said she left the scene because someone told her to leave if she “wasn’t involved.” On her way home, Hanson noticed her side view mirror was missing. The following day she contacted police, noting damage to her vehicle including the side view mirror, driver’s side headlight and the windshield.
After the crash, Minnesota State Patrol conducted a crash reconstruction report. The report from the reconstruction concluded that Hanson did not cause the collision that killed Wolter.
The cause of Wolter’s death was determined to be a combination of the Saturn failing to stop after colliding with the Caravan and eventually coming to rest in a lane of oncoming traffic, Wolter standing behind the headlights while wearing all black with no lighting and Turner’s chemical and physical impairments.
The complaint in this case was filed by Sgt. Phil Jergenson of the Minnesota State Patrol in Golden Valley, who conducted an investigation and reviewed written reports about the incident in order to determine the facts of the case.