A northwestern Wisconsin woman is scheduled appear in court Wednesday on felony charges that she was drunk when a man fell from atop her moving pickup truck along a rural road and suffered fatal injuries.
Tara L. Appleton, 31, of Webster, is charged in Burnett County District Court in connection with the death of Preston Decorah, 27, also of Webster, who was riding on the vehicle in the Hertel area, fell and hours later was discovered unconscious about 9:15 a.m. on March 30 in a driveway.
Decorah later died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and Appleton was arrested shortly before noon that same day at her home and remains jailed.
The charges filed against her are first- and second-degree reckless homicide, homicide while driving drunk and hit-and-run while causing a fatality.
According to the charges, a sheriff’s deputy caught up with Appleton at her residence, where she recounted her version of events the previous night and into the next day:
Appleton said she drove with a friend to a home on Eagle Feather Drive between Siren and Spooner, where she and others were attending a party and drinking. She stayed for about 3 hours before heading toward Siren with Decorah and her friend along.
Appleton approached a stop sign, and “Preston must have crawled out the window as she was slowing, and he got on top of the truck,” the criminal complaint read.
She resumed driving and saw Decorah slide down the front of the truck and fall to the ground. Appleton said he was unable to get to his feet, the complaint continued.
Appleton and others got Decorah back in the truck, and they returned to the home where they had gathered earlier.
They tried to get Decorah back in the home, but he collapsed to the ground in the driveway. Appleton told Decorah she had to leave him there because she had slipped out of her house, where she lived with her mother.
While Appleton and the others were “trying to get him out of the truck ... he fell to the ground and was left where he was” alone and dying, the complaint read.
A sheriff’s investigator asked Appleton whether she had been drinking that night, and she said “of course she was under the influence of alcohol when she was driving,” according to the complaint.