An Albertville grandmother standing trial for the death of a decorated Monticello runner killed in an accident in 2013 pleaded guilty to charges of gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation in Wright County District Court Monday.
The Monticello Times broke the news of the plea deal Monday evening.
Linda Louise Gullickson, 68, 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, striking and killing 18-year-old Phillip LaVallee. 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, faces a maximum sentence of a year in jail or $3,000 fine, or both. She was originally charged with criminal vehicular homicide and operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, which carried a max sentence of 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Gullickson’s license will be revoked for a year as part of the plea agreement.
Judge Stephen Halsey accepted the guilty plea Monday with LaVallee’s parents, Greg and Amy, in the courtroom. Halsey scheduled sentencing in the case for June 24 at the Wright County District Courthouse in Buffalo.
Neither party’s attorney nor clients (Gullickson or LaVallee families) offered comment on Monday, the Times reported. All stated they would wait until after the sentencing in June.
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.
Investigators also ruled out medical conditions as any cause to the crash.