A 24-year-old woman has admitted that she was drunk on a weekday afternoon when she struck a bicyclist with her SUV and killed the newly retired public servant as he rolled along on a county road in the Brainerd Lakes area.
Kerri M. Zelinske, of Brainerd, pleaded guilty Monday in Cass County District Court to criminal vehicular homicide in the death last fall of Leonard Grabowski, 57, also of Brainerd, near the southeast shore of Gull Lake.
In exchange for her plea, County Attorney Christopher Strandlie has agreed to recommend to the court a prison sentence of three years and five months, which is seven months shorter than the presumptive term.
“What she’s done is thrown herself on the mercy of the court” in hopes of avoiding the presumptive sentence late next month, Strandlie said Tuesday. “We cut seven months because she saved us the uncertainty of trial and the [Grabowski] family the anguish of a trial.”
Soon after Zelinske was questioned about 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 10, a State Patrol trooper administered a preliminary breath test that measured her blood alcohol content at 0.137 percent, well above the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
Zelinske acknowledged to the trooper that afternoon that she was afraid after hitting the bicyclist, drove away in her small SUV but soon returned, according to the charges against her.
She said she “never saw the bicyclist and [was] unsure where he came from” as she drove on County Road 70 near Gull River Road, the criminal complaint added.
Grabowski’s career took him to Oklahoma, Alaska and then to St. Paul, where he met his wife. The two had three children together. He retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers less than four months before his death, having been with the corps for 28 years.