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Driver in fatal crash pleads guilty to driving drunk

Sterling Haukom admits to driving while drunk in February accident that killed young woman just blocks from her home.

Sterling Haukom
Sterling Haukom
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An Olmsted County man charged with killing an 18-year-old woman in a car crash pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular homicide.

Sterling Haukom, 35, admitted in an online hearing in Olmsted County District Court to driving while drunk in the early hours of Feb. 24. Haukom admitted to speeding and running a red light when he crashed into a car driven by Erika Cruz, 18, who was on her way home from work. She was struck at Eighth Avenue and 12th Street Southeast just blocks from her home.

“I did it, yes,” Haukom said when asked by his attorney, Lauri Traub of the Minnesota Office of the Public Defender, if he admitted to the circumstances in the case against him.

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Haukom admitted he had been drinking beer and whiskey at the 63 Club before driving.
“Is it fair to say you were fairly impaired by the alcohol you drank?” Traub asked.

“Yes,” Haukom said.

Chief Deputy Olmsted County Attorney Eric Woodford also questioned Haukom about the circumstances of the crash.

"You’d agree your driving conduct and the crash that resulted was the cause of her death?"

“Yes,” Haukom said.

Haukom waived his right to a jury trial and told District Court Judge Jacob Allen he understands entering the plea to the charge carries a sentence of four years in prison. However, prosecutors are asking to double Haukom’s sentence as an aggravated offense.

Traub said she plans to contest the prosecution's request to double the sentence.

Allen said he would schedule a sentencing hearing to decide whether the sentence should be lengthened. Haukom also waived his right to have a jury hear that matter. Instead Allen will make the determination whether the sentence should be lengthened.

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Allen ordered Haukom submit to a pre-sentence investigation and said he would have Olmsted County Court set a sentencing hearing date.

Cruz's family has filed a wrongful death suit against Haukom and Image of Rochester, Inc., which does business as the 63 Club.

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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