Prison for Brainerd motorist who got drunk, fatally hit retiree on bicycle

  • Updated: February 26, 2014 - 9:33 PM

A 24-year-old Brainerd woman will serve a sentence of more than four years for being drunk and running over a bicyclist with her SUV, killing the newly retired public servant as he rolled along on a county road in the Brainerd Lakes area one fall afternoon.

Kerri M. Zelinske was given the 50-month sentence Tuesday in Cass County District Court. The sentence was longer than what prosecutors had recommended but still at the low end of state guidelines. After serving the first two-thirds of the term in prison, Zelinske would then be eligible for supervised release.

In exchange for Zelinske pleading guilty on Jan. 27, County Attorney Christopher Strandlie agreed to recommend a sentence of 41 months in the death of Leonard Grabowski, 57, also of Brainerd, near the southeast shore of Gull Lake.

The Minnesota sentencing guidelines call for a presumptive sentence of 58 months, with the judge having the option to sentence anywhere from 50 to 69 months, without the length being considered a departure.

Zelinske had been drinking on a friend’s boat on Oct. 10 before the midafternoon crash on County Road 70 near Gull River Road. Zelinske was heading south, crossed the centerline and struck Grabowski heading the other way.

A State Patrol trooper’s preliminary breath test 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.

Grabowski retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers less than four months before his death, having been with the corps for 28 years. His career took him to Oklahoma, Alaska and then to St. Paul, where he met his wife. The two had three children together.

Paul Walsh

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