Linda Louise Gullickson was sentenced to three separate 20-day stays in the Wright County Jail, one month of house arrest and 30 hours of community service for her role in an August 2013 crash that killed a Monticello teen as he was running on Wright County Highway 19 north of Albertville.
Judge Stephen A. Halsey sentenced Gullickson, now 68, on charges of criminal vehicular operation in front of a tearful courtroom Wednesday afternoon, June 24, in Buffalo. Parties from both sides, including members of the LaVallee and Gullickson family, filled the room at the Wright County Courthouse, according to a report by the Monticello Times.
Gullickson, of Albertville, will serve her first 20-day stint starting on Aug. 8, 2015, the two-year anniversary of the accident that killed LaVallee instantly as he ran against traffic. Accident reports state LaVallee was struck by Gullickson’s vehicle at a high rate of speed as she lost control, eventually rolling the SUV into a ditch.
A memorial to the decorated runner, who was an All-Mississippi 8 selection and would have been a collegiate athlete at South Dakota State University in the fall of 2013, still hangs on the telephone pole near the accident site.
Gullickson will serve another 20 days in 2016. She is also asked to complete 30 hours of community service and to create a community conference in cooperation with LaVallee’s parents, Greg and Amy, to address the dangers of distracted driving.
In 2017, she may petition the court to waive her final 20-day stay in jail if she has completed those tasks. Halsey stated that if Gullickson and the LaVallees cannot agree upon a community conference, Gullickson must write a letter of apology to the court and the family, approved by her probation officer.
The 30 hours of community service must be aimed at teens or the elderly and must also focus on distracted driving, according to terms of the plea agreement Gullickson reached with Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly and Assistant Attorney Brian Lutes.
She will also pay a fine of $1,000 and lose her license for up to one year.
Gullickson originally faced charges of criminal vehicular homicide, which would have carried a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and/or a $20,000 fine. She, instead, pleaded guilty in April to the lesser charges in an arrangement with the Wright County Attorney’s Office. County Attorney Tom Kelly has previously said he commonly arranges plea agreement with the consent of the family impacted by the case.
In April, Gullickson, fought through tears, reports state, as she admitted to her role in the August 2013 accident, which happened when the van she was driving on Wright County Highway 19 careened from one side of the road to the the other. Gullickson was injured in the accident as well after her vehicle completely left the road and rolled over.
According to Monticello Times editor Tim Hennagir, Gullickson said, under oath, that “[she] did not brake, steer away or take evasive action before hitting LaVallee.”
Gullickson also told Wright County Assistant Attorney Brian Lutes that she felt there was enough evidence to convict her of the amended charges, agreeing to the attorney’s questioning asking if she felt it was likely a jury would find her guilty based on the evidence presented.
Under the current, amended charge, Gullickson, a former daycare provider, faced a maximum sentence of a year in jail or $3,000 fine, or both.
According to court documents, investigations by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office conclude that at around 12:09 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2013, Wright County Communications officers were alerted to a vehicle vs. pedestrian accident on Wright County Highway 19 north of the Albertville Premium Outlets, in Otsego.
The investigation showed a van, driven by Gullickson, then 67, was headed in the northbound lane but crossed over the road, into the southbound lane and onto the southbound shoulder, eventually off the road and into the ditch on the west side of the highway, where Gullickson and the vehicle rolled several times.
LaVallee, who was running on the southbound shoulder, headed northbound, against traffic, was struck and killed. Gullickson, who was hurt in the rollover, was transported and treated at a local hospital.
Investigations showed crash data recovered from the van showed the vehicle was traveling at around 63.5 mph (in a 55 mph zone) and did not change speeds for five seconds prior to the crash. Officers indicated this was likely due to the use of the vehicle’s cruise control.
The data recorder also showed Gullickson did not apply the brakes after crossing over the center line, nor were any recordings of “avoidance maneuvers” shown.
Detectives, the complaint continues, also obtained cellular phone records from Gullickson’s device, and she did receive a call around the same time as the accident. Officers and investigators concluded that call was not answered, rather it went to voicemail.
Assistant Wright County Attorney Lutes signed the complaint on behalf of the Wright County Attorney’s Office, alleging Gullickson’s inattentiveness caused the accident.