Following many hours of drinking with his friends, a motorist with a history of drunken driving rolled a car on a dark northern Minnesota highway and got a lift to a nearby McDonald’s, leaving one of his buddies along the road to die without calling 911, according to prosecutors.
Tomas C. Cuellar, 39, of LaPrairie, Minn., was charged Wednesday in Itasca County District Court with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the March 11 crash on Hwy. 169 about 6 miles north of Hill City. Cuellar remains jailed in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Michael J. Washburn, 40, of Hill City, was thrown about 40 feet from the car and killed. Washburn, who worked for a construction company, left behind a wife and four children.
Bradley G. Doree, 48, of Hill City, also was a passenger in the car he owns and is charged in the crash. Doree did not flee the scene but told police he didn’t call for help because he couldn’t find his phone.
He told authorities Tuesday he was 95 percent certain that Washburn was the driver. That assertion prompted his arrest and charges of felony aiding and abetting criminal vehicular homicide and aiding and abetting drunken driving, a misdemeanor. He’s jailed in lieu of $10,000 bail.
According to the charges:
Cuellar arranged a ride from the crash scene to a McDonald’s in Grand Rapids before law enforcement arrived. A witness told authorities that Cuellar said during the ride, “I crashed my [vehicle]. Can you bring me to my house in LaPrairie?”
Police officers caught up with a bloodied Cuellar in the McDonald’s, and he denied being the driver. They took from him a marijuana pipe and his cellphone.
Cuellar and Doree were hospitalized and had their blood alcohol content measured. Doree’s was 0.237 percent, while Cuellar’s was 0.204 percent, more than 2½ times legal limit for driving in Minnesota. Cuellar’s criminal history includes three convictions for drunken driving.
The next day, Doree told a state trooper that he, Cuellar and Washburn were drinking the afternoon before the crash at Cuellar’s home and then stopped at two bars for beer and shots before visiting the home of Cuellar’s stepfather for more drinking.
The stepfather said that when the three left, the car got stuck in the driveway while Cuellar “was most likely the driver” as the other two pushed to free the vehicle, the charging documents read. The crash occurred about a mile from the stepfather’s home.
On Tuesday, Cuellar told law enforcement that he may have been driving at the time of the rollover, but “I can’t say for sure.” He also acknowledged never calling 911, even though he had his cellphone. Records show he made 10 calls soon after the crash but none to 911.