A 57-year-old state inmate convicted last year of killing two people while driving drunk fell ill while serving his time in a jail just west of the Twin Cities and died, authorities said Wednesday.
Philip S. Bertelsen was taken from the Meeker County jail on April 14 to a hospital in Litchfield and then to St. Cloud Hospital, where he died two days later, state Department of Corrections (DOC) spokeswoman Sarah Latuseck said Wednesday.
“It was a medical-related situation,” said Sheriff Brian Cruze, whose jail has been housing state inmates for several years as have other jails around Minnesota. “There’s no reason to believe that it’s suicide or a crime.”
Cruze said that for “the past two weeks there were some medical issues going on.” The sheriff said Bertelsen was conscious when he left the jail but declined to say more about the inmate’s health difficulties.
Latuseck said Bertelsen’s death is under investigation by the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office and her agency. A preliminary investigation shows Berterlsen died of natural causes, but toxicology tests may not return for several weeks, she said.
Bertelsen was moved from St. Cloud Correctional Facility on Nov. 24 to the Meeker County jail because of the DOC’s “capacity issues” at its prisons, Latuseck said. He was housed among the jail’s general population, she said.
In early October, Bertelsen was sentenced to eight years in prison for two counts of criminal vehicular homicide stemming from a high-speed rear-end collision that killed Melvin Jones, 20, and Brandy Banks-Sutta, 21, on Olson Hwy. in Minneapolis on Nov. 3, 2013. Bertelsen, of Golden Valley, was sentenced to 48 months on each count, to be served consecutively.
Bertelsen’s car rear-ended that of his victims as it was stopped at a red light. Their car was pushed into the rear end of an SUV, which then hit a minivan. Information from the crash data retrieval system in Bertelsen’s car indicated that he was driving 107 miles per hour just moments before the crash.