A Golden Valley man was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison for two counts of criminal vehicular homicide stemming from a 2013 crash that Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman called “horrific.”

Philip Scott Bertelsen, 56, was in a car that rear-ended another, killing its occupants, Melvin Jones, 20, and Brandy Banks-Sutta, 21, at Olson Hwy. and Morgan Avenue N. in Minneapolis early on Nov. 3, 2013.

Bertelsen was sentenced to 48 months on each count, to be served consecutively. He also was sentenced to three years in prison, to be served concurrently, for inflicting the injuries suffered by four people in the cars ahead of the one driven by Jones.

“He was sentenced to 96 months for the horrific crash he caused, taking the life of two innocent people,” Freeman said after the sentencing. “There is no excuse. The 96 months he received … is the maximum allowed by law.”

Bertelsen’s car rear-ended that of his victims as it was stopped at a red light. Their car was pushed into the rear end of an SUV, which then hit a minivan.

Information from the crash data retrieval system in Bertelsen’s car indicated that he was driving 107 miles per hour just moments before the crash. Bertelsen acknowledged Tuesday that he was driving drunk.

Nkenge Flagg, Jones’ mother, told the court that her son did well in school and that he was studying to be a nurse. “Melvin has always been a pleasure to be around,” she said. “He is one of the most compassionate and loving individuals I have ever known.”

Now, Flagg said, both families have “been handed a life sentence of grief.”

Brandy’s sister, Brittany Banks-Sutta, said, “Brandy found the best in everyone. She had the biggest heart. She was my best friend and a great auntie.”

When it was his turn to speak, Bertelsen said that he was sorry for what he did and that he had been sober for 30 years before he slipped back into excessive drinking.

STAFF REPORT