The collision on an empty country road that killed bicyclist Penny Verdeck seemed suspicious from the start.
It had been a sunny afternoon on April 26 but the driver said she didn’t see Verdeck before hitting her, said her sister, Christine Carrigan.
“When [the driver] hit her, she hit her with the middle of her car so she had to have gone way over to the side of the road without looking where she was going,” said Carrigan.
The McLeod County attorney on Monday confirmed the family’s guess and charged driver Emily Givens, 25, of Prior Lake, with texting and driving in the moments before the fatal crash near Glencoe. Givens faces a felony charge of vehicular homicide and two misdemeanors of careless driving and texting and driving. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years and 180 days in prison and $22,000 in fines.
Verdeck, a 40-year-old married mother of two girls, was known as a runner and frequently trained on her bicycle for races and triathlons. “It was her first bike ride of the year,” said her husband, Ryan Verdeck.
Givens told a sheriff’s deputy that she was not on her phone before or during the crash. A digital forensic specialist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Givens’ cellphone received two text messages at 3:45:50 p.m. They were opened at 3:57:13 p.m. The phone records also showed Givens called 911 to report the crash at 3:57:59 p.m.
Carrigan expressed sympathy for the driver and said that sending her to jail for a lengthy sentence “doesn’t seem to be the answer.” Instead, she said, the driver should do some kind of community service to warn of the dangers of texting and driving.
Ryan Verdeck hasn’t given much thought about the driver. “My job is to take care of my daughters who have no mother and myself who has no wife. … Nothing brings Penny back.”