A 57-year-old man has been sentenced to a four-year prison term for being high on narcotics when he fatally hit a woman walking along a road northwest of the Twin Cities.
Thomas W. Jones, of Princeton, was sentenced in Sherburne County District Court last week in connection with the March 23, 2020, crash southeast of Princeton that killed 69-year-old Catherine Lynn, who was walking with her longtime partner less than a mile from her home.
Jones pleaded guilty in May to one of four counts of criminal vehicular homicide. The court dismissed the others. With credit for time served after his arrest, Jones will serve roughly the first 2⅔ years of his term in prison and the balance on supervised release.
According to the charge, Lynn's partner called 911 about 4:25 p.m. to report that she was hit by a car from behind as the two of them walked east on the shoulder of County Road 2.
Jones stopped at the scene and told law enforcement that he was distracted as he reached for a can of pop before hitting Lynn, the charges read. He also said he has prescriptions for morphine and oxycodone. He said he took his normal doses that day but insisted soon after the crash they did not impair his ability to drive.
Statements filed with the court on Jones' behalf before sentencing noted Jones' struggle with an addiction to prescription painkillers.
"Thomas has struggled with medical issues after being in a coma ... and that [led] him into getting prescribed narcotic medication," wrote Tamara Rhode, his sister. "This was something he was always worried about, being he had the issue with alcohol years ago. He didn't want to become addicted to opioids."
A longtime friend, Cheryl Dahl, told the court that "Thomas has been able to pick himself up, and his first priority was to get rid of the narcotic medication he was prescribed for years after he almost died from sepsis years back. Thomas knew this medication was talking a toll on his life with it being very addictive and a controlled substance. It caused him to tragically take an innocent life."
County Attorney Kathleen Heaney said in a statement Monday that "with the imposition of the sentence, I hope the family may find solace knowing the justice system held Defendant Jones accountable for his actions."
Lynn's online obituary described Thomas Johnson, who was by her side when the car hit her as "the love of her life. ... Catherine and Tom have some very special friends, lifelong friends to travel with, ride Harley Davidsons, explore the world, and look out for each other."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482