by Tim Hennagir
The Albertville woman who struck and killed former Monticello Magic cross-country standout Phillip LaVallee last summer made her second appearance Monday in Wright County District Court.
Linda Louise Gullickson, 67, has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide while operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner in the death of LaVallee, a 2012 Monticello High School graduate who was preparing for his sophomore year at South Dakota State University when he died at the scene of a rural accident a year ago.
If convicted, Gullickson could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, a $20,000 fine or have both sentences imposed.
Judge Stephen Halsey set a 1 p.m. Sept. 5 for Gullickson’s contested omnibus hearing. Prior to the start of Monday’s hearing, Halsey instructed the majority of the almost 40 people who had filled half of a Wright County courtroom to either remove or turn inside out bright orange or other T-shirts that featured words of support for LaVallee, who was hit and killed Aug. 8, 2013, while out on a training run.
Those appearing to support LaVallee completed that task shortly before Gullickson appeared in the courtroom. Gullickson sat on the opposite side of the courtroom.
Assistant Wright County Attorney Brian Lutes said in a interview Monday the omnibus hearing was contested after a request was made by Gullickson’s attorney Dennis Johnson.
“This case was on the court docket for a regular, uncontested omnibus hearing, which was the next step in the legal process,” Lutes said. “This case has now been set for a contested hearing. That hearing is likely going to involve the issue of probable cause to determine if there’s enough evidence to support the criminal vehicular operation charge, which is based on gross negligence [by Gullickson].”
According to Lutes, speed and other operational data collected from Gullickson’s vehicle has been returned, but cell phone and other information from the driver of a witness vehicle that was traveling southbound on County Rd. 19 the day of the accident had not be returned prior to Monday’s omnibus hearing.
“Most of the [people in the] vehicles that witnessed this accident were traveling northbound, behind Gullickson’s vehicle,” he said. “We expect that witness vehicle information shortly. It’s the only piece of information that’s still outstanding. It’s something that’s not critical to the case, but it’s something that he [Gullickson’s attorney Dennis Johnson] had requested.”
Lutes met with LaVallee family members and friends behind closed doors for almost a half-hour once the omnibus hearing was completed. Lutes did not elaborate on the details of that discussion, but did say he met with the large group to explain why the case had moved to a contesting omnibus hearing.
“I explained this would be moving to a procedural type of hearing to get to the next step and what’s likely to happen at the next hearing on Sept. 5,” Lutes said, adding original conditions involving Gullickson were set when she made her first court appearance on April 29 and she was released on her own recognizance.
“There were no significant conditions set because there were no chemicals involved in this accident,” Lutes said Monday, adding vehicle data involved in Gullickson’s case was processed by the Minnesota State Patrol.
“We did a search warrant to get the black box from her vehicle, which is standard procedure,” he said. “The state patrol then analyzed the data from the box.”
The complaint filed against Gullickson alleges her driving conduct and her level of inattentiveness were so extreme as to amount to gross negligence because she failed to exercise even scant or slight care.
Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Gullickson’s grossly negligent conduct caused her to crash her vehicle into LaVallee, killing him as he made a morning run on County Road 19 in the city of Otesgo.
According to the complaint, at approximately 12:10 p.m. Aug. 8, 2013, Wright County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived in the 8000 block of County Rd. 19 to investigate a single-vehicle crash with injuries.
Law enforcement officers at the scene determined that a van driven by Gullickson was traveling north on County Road 19. The van crossed over the southbound lane and drove onto the shoulder, striking LaVallee, who was running north on the shoulder of southbound County Road 19.
After striking LaVallee, the van apparently went into the ditch and rolled several times before coming to a stop on its roof in a nearby yard, a Wright County deputy stated in the complaint.
Furthermore, the deputy stated it appeared the van driven by Gullickson struck LaVallee from behind and carried him for a distance before he was thrown.
According to the complaint, at the time of the crash, it was sunny and clear and the road conditions were dry. Neither the weather nor the road conditions appeared to have been a factor in this crash, the complaint stated.
When a detective went to the hospital where Gullickson had been transported for medical treatment, her family immediately advised the detective that they had spoken with an attorney and would not speak to the detective.
The complaint further states the Minnesota State Patrol executed a search warrant on the Gullickson’s vehicle and obtained crash data maintained by the vehicle.
The data revealed the speed of the Gullickson’s vehicle at the time of the crash was 63.4 mph in a 55 mile-per-hour zone. According to the complaint, the speed of Gullickson’s vehicle was steady and constant at 63.4 mph for the five seconds leading up to the crash, suggesting she was utilizing cruise control.
Furthermore, according to the complaint, the vehicle data revealed Gullickson did not apply brakes at the time of the crash or at any time five seconds prior to the time of the crash.