A 67-year-old woman who allegedly struck a Monticello runner on Wright County Road 19, killing him, is now facing criminal vehicular homicide charges in Wright County District Court.
Linda Louise Gullickson, 67, was also injured in the accident after her van veered from the northbound lane into the southbound lane of the busy, two-lane highway about two miles north of the Albertville Premium Outlets. Gullickson, investigators state in a criminal complaint, struck Phillip LaVallee, 19, killing him instantly. She then rolled her van off the roadway and over a driveway approach before the 2007 Toyota Sienna minivan came to rest on its roof in a yard on the 8300 block of County Road 19.
The Wright County Attorney’s Office is pursuing charges of criminal vehicular homicide, a felony, stating Gullickson was “grossly negligent” when she struck the 19-year-old runner Aug. 8, 2013.
According to the complaint:
Investigators reconstructing the crash believe a cell phone that was taken into evidence the day of the accident might be a key. According to a Wright County detective, records show the defendant received an incoming call at 12:09 p.m. That call went unanswered.
The 911 call reporting the accident to Wright County Dispatch was also placed at 12:09 p.m., records state.
Witnesses said they saw Gullickson’s minivan traveling in the northbound lane of County Road 19 when it steadily crossed over the southbound lane, driving onto the southbound shoulder and then striking the pedestrian who was on the southbound side of the road but running north (with his back to Gullickson’s van).
Investigators said LaVallee was hit, dragged and then thrown from the vehicle. The van then “hit an approach, launched into the air and rolled several times,” according to a witness who was traveling northbound about 10 car lengths ahead of Gullickson.
She was transported via ambulance to a hospital for head injuries.
In follow-up interviews, other drivers confirmed Gullickson was traveling northbound when she crept into the southbound lane, hit the approach after leaving the road and rolled her vehicle several times. Deputies found Gullickson hanging upside down, in her seatbelt, when they arrived on scene. A driver by the name of Brandon Peterson told deputies he saw the vehicle traveling southbound said he had to stop and move into the northbound lane, fearing for his life, when the van crossed the center line. Peterson he saw the vehicle strike LaVallee.
Road conditions were dry and it was a sunny, clear day at the time of the accident.
Deputies attempted to interview Gullickson in the hospital, the complaint states. Gullickson’s family said they had consulted with an attorney and “would not speak with Detective Eaton.”
The runner, LaVallee, wasn’t identified until nearly seven and a half hours after the crash, when LaVallee’s parents, who had heard about the accident, feared their son was the victim. They said their son had left the house at 11:30 a.m. and not returned home, and also had not shown up for work.
The medical examiner, with the family’s assistance, was able to identify the victim as Phillip LaVallee.
Investigators believe negligence was the cause due to several factors. First, there were no skid marks along the road or any signs of “avoidance maneuvers,” investigators said. Damage to the vehicle was consistent with striking the runner and continuing on.
A crash data retrieval system on the minivan also shows the Toyota was traveling about 63 mph in the 55 mph zone at a steady speeds, suggesting the driver was using cruise control. THe CDR data shows the driver of the van never applied the breaks at the time of the accident or any time five seconds prior to the time of the crash. Data also showed no signs of so-called “avoidance maneuvers” prior to the crash.
An investigation conducted by another detective revealed there were no medical conditions at play in the accident, as well.
LaVallee, who was a standout runner for the Monticello Magic, was a scholarship athlete at South Dakota State University.
Criminal vehicular homicide carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and/0r a $20,000 fine, and is classified as a felony.
Gullickson has made her initial court appearance and will have an omnibus hearing at 1 p.m. on July 23, 2014.