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Woman pleads not guilty to vehicular homicide

By Heather J. Carlson

hcarlson@postbulletin.com

MANTORVILLE -- A Hayfield woman pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to criminal charges in connection with a fatal car crash that killed an 18-year-old man.

Lindsay Louise Van Tassel, 19, entered her plea in Dodge District Court. She faces a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide and a misdemeanor charge for reckless driving.

The charges stem from a car accident on Dec. 19 that killed Aaron Ivan Waters. According to the complaint, Van Tassel was driving 70 mph -- 15 miles above the speed limit -- while northbound on County Road 15, which was covered with snow and icy. When she approached County Road 6, Van Tassel lost control of the vehicle and put the car in neutral. She ran a stop sign, and the car crashed into a ditch, rolling over at least once.

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Neither Van Tassel nor her passenger, Waters, were wearing seat belts, and both were ejected from the vehicle. Waters later died at Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester.

After the hearing, Assistant County Attorney Gary ReMine said Van Tassel must be held accountable for her actions that led to Waters' death.

"The law says you have a duty to slow down in hazardous conditions," he said. "Not only did she not slow down, she was speeding."

He also pointed out that Van Tassel has been cited for speeding since the accident. According to court records, Van Tassel pleaded guilty in March to a petty misdemeanor for driving 76 mph in a 55 mph zone. She was also cited May 10 for speeding in Dodge Center. Last week, she pleaded guilty to a petty misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia.

But Van Tassel's attorney, David VanDerHeyden, said that while his client acknowledges she might have been negligent, her actions do not rise to the level of gross negligence -- the standard required to convict someone of criminal vehicular homicide.

"She has a great deal of remorse," VanDerHeyden said. "She would like some closure in this incident."

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