Cambridge woman sentenced for leaving the scene of fatal accident

Jeffrey Hage
Union-Times

A Cambridge woman will not have to serve jail time for her role in a November 2015 car accident if she speaks with students in drivers education classes about the consequences of leaving the scene of an accident.

Bailey Anne Hanson, 23, was sentenced before Judge Jenny Walker Jasper Aug. 16 in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge. She pleaded guilty May 23, 2017 to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident in which an injury or death occurred.

Anoka County Attorney Jessica Rugani, who prosecuted the case due to a conflict of interest in the case, recommended at sentencing a stay of adjudication, as well as three years probation and a cap of 90 days in jail.

The Court gave Hanson an option of 180 days on house arrest or 90 days in jail. However, the jail time will be waived if Hanson completes a 4½ hour driver’s awareness course called Alive at 25, and devote time to speaking to young teens in drivers education programs about the

Minnesota law that states a suspect in crash must remain at the scene of an accident. Hanson was scheduled to attending the Alive at 25 session on Aug. 17 in St. Paul, her attorney Douglas Sauter said.

Hanson was also ordered to complete counseling because the court said she needed to forgive herself for what happened the night of Nov. 2, 2015.

The charge against Hanson stems from a Nov. 2, 2015 fatal crash near Moon Lake Drive in Cambridge. Patricia M. Wolter, 54 of Princeton, was standing on the highway trying to help her impaired son from his vehicle after an initial crash on Highway 95 in which the vehicle driven by Wolter’s son, Joseph Turner, came to rest in a lane of oncoming traffic. Hanson struck Wolter and left the scene of the crash after calling 911 for help. Wolter was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Rugani reviewed how Joseph Turner was found to be legally intoxicated at the time of the crash and under the influence of alcohol. He also had oxycodone and morphine in his blood.

“Patricia Wolter did nothing more than hop in a car with her foolish son,” said Rugani, who reviewed how Turner suffered from an eye injury that night and was driving to the Cambridge hospital with his mother in the passenger seat.

Rugani made it clear that Hanson did not cause the crash that resulted in Wolter’s death.

“But you did break the law,” Rugani said, when Hanson left the scene of the crash.

“Is Bailey Hanson public enemy number one? Absolutely not,” Rugani said.

That’s why Rugani said Hanson deserved a stay of adjudication, which means the conviction will never be entered on Hanson’s record, if Hanson complies with court-ordered conditions. But there needs to be some sort of consequence for leaving the scene of the crash, Rugani continued. That’s why Rugani pushed for the three years probation and the community service work.

In agreeing to those terms, the court said it hoped something good could come from an unfortunate situation.

The family of Patricia Wolter was not at the sentencing to make a statement, nor did the family enter a written statement.

However, Hanson spoke briefly.
“I’m really sorry I left the scene. It was a mistake,” Hanson said. “I’m also sorry the family lost their mom,” she said.

According to the criminal complaint:
At approximately 10 p.m. Nov. 2, 2015, Turner was driving eastbound on Highway 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 Highway 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.

Jeffrey Hage can be reached at [email protected]