St. Paul woman charged in summer crash that killed Macalester student

  • Updated: December 21, 2012 - 9:07 PM

Newly arrived exchange student was hit in crosswalk.

A St. Paul woman was charged in a crash that killed a French foreign-exchange student last summer.

Danielle J. Keller, 27, was looking in the opposite direction when she made a right turn on Aug. 29, striking Cleo Thiberge, 19, according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday in Ramsey County District Court. Thiberge died of her injuries on Sept. 2.

Keller is charged with one count of careless driving.

According to the complaint:

Thiberge was standing at the southwest corner of Grand and Hamline Avenues at about 5 p.m. Keller was at the wheel of a sport-utility vehicle stopped at a red light in the eastbound lane of Grand Avenue.

The light for eastbound traffic turned green, and the "walk" sign for eastbound pedestrian traffic across Hamline Avenue also lit up. Thiberge stepped into the crosswalk. Keller turned south onto Hamline, striking Thiberge and pinning her facedown under the rear passenger side tire, the charges said.

Witnesses instructed Keller to back up. Off-duty doctors and nurses at the scene provided medical assistance before paramedics arrived.

Keller told police that she worked as a mechanic nearby, and was test-driving a customer's car to make sure the brakes were working properly after repairs, the complaint said. An inspection by authorities revealed no problems with the vehicle. Keller tested negative for alcohol and controlled substances.

Keller told police she saw Thiberge standing on the corner, and that Thiberge wasn't crossing the street so she checked for southbound traffic on Hamline and turned right, the complaint said. Video surveillance footage shows that Thiberge, the car Keller was driving and another eastbound car all moved forward at the same time as the traffic light turned green and the "walk" sign lit up.

Thiberge had just arrived in the United States the day before the accident. She was scheduled to start studies at Macalester College in the fall.

Records show that in 2004 Keller was convicted of speeding, going 99 miles per hour in a 70-mph zone, and pleaded guilty to careless driving, driving after suspension and driving after revocation. The cases were all charged in 2004, but occurred in Stearns, McLeod and Carver counties.

If convicted, the careless-driving charge is punishable by 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

CHAO XIONG

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