A far more serious charge has been filed against the man accused of driving drunk and getting in a fatal wreck on Christmas Eve at a Lakeville intersection while his three children were in the SUV with him.
Jeffrey A. Martin, 37, of Farmington, was charged Monday with criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Everett T. Letterly, 88, of Prior Lake. Martin's children, ages 10, 9 and 4, were in the vehicle at the time. It was the middle child's ninth birthday.
Previously filed gross-misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and child endangerment remain against Martin, whose blood-alcohol content was 0.17 at the time of the crash, authorities said.
Ten of Letterly's relatives sat through Martin's brief hearing Monday in Dakota County District Court in Hastings. Among those in the courtroom were his daughter, Kari Genzler, 41, of Farmington, who later said the charges were justified.
"His blood-alcohol content was ... more than two times the legal limit, and he killed my dad," she said Tuesday. "There was absolutely no reason for that accident. They were only a few minutes from home, and he did not have to die."
Letterly's wife, Sue Shaffer, 69, was driving their Cadillac eastbound on Dodd Road, just a few minutes from a holiday gathering at Genzler's house, with Letterly in the passenger seat, police and relatives said. Martin was northbound on Gerdine Path.
According to police, both drivers may have erred before the collision. Witnesses said Shaffer signaled a right-hand turn at Dodd and Gerdine. Martin, meanwhile, had stopped his Dodge Durango at the stop sign at Dodd, signaling that he would be turning left.
But Shaffer did not turn, instead continuing through the intersection, and Martin pulled out and struck the passenger side of the car.
The impact killed Letterly, and Shaffer was seriously hurt; she continues to recover from a deep cut on her head, and her entire head remains numb, Genzler said.
"She has no feeling. All the nerves are damaged," Genzler said. "Physically, she'll heal, but emotionally, it's going to be tough."
Martin and his children were unharmed.
"This is another sad and tragic example of the significant danger associated with drinking and driving," said Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom. "Drunk driving kills and cripples more people than any other crime in America."
Martin will be back in court on April 12.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482 Joy Powell • 952-882-9017