A 52-year-old man avoided a potential murder conviction for purposely running over his girlfriend in a Minneapolis alley and has agreed to plead guilty to lesser felony charges in connection with the woman’s death.
Jeffrey Cruz of Minneapolis admitted Monday in Hennepin County District Court to criminal vehicular homicide and first-degree drunken driving in connection with hitting 49-year-old Stacy A. Buckanaga in June 2017 behind her apartment building in the 3100 block of 23rd Avenue S.
The plea deal calls for Cruz to serve a 17-year term. With credit for time in jail since his arrest, Cruz will serve roughly the first 10 years in prison and the balance on supervised release.
A conviction on the murder count would have called for a presumptive sentence of six months longer, according to the County Attorney’s Office.
Cruz did not have a valid license when he ran over Buckanaga with a van, according to the state Department of Public Safety. His criminal history in Minnesota spans nearly his entire adult life and includes four convictions for drunken driving, five for driving without a license, and one each for robbery, burglary, domestic assault and third-degree assault.
Buckanaga died at Regency Hospital in Golden Valley about 2½ months after being struck. She suffered bleeding on the brain, fractured ribs, a collapsed left lung, a broken jaw and fractures to her spine and sternum.
Buckanaga called police on June 6, 2017, to say she didn’t want Cruz driving drunk. When officers spoke with Cruz about 9:50 a.m., he told them he had only a couple of beers and that his girlfriend was trying to get him in trouble.
The officers left but returned about 20 minutes later and found Cruz and the woman arguing in an alley. Police told them to stay away from each other.
At 10:42 a.m., police responded to another call from a witness who said he had video-recorded Cruz running over his girlfriend with a van. The video showed the girlfriend with both hands on the hood of the van and Cruz accelerating and knocking her to the ground. He drove over her and kept going.
Sentencing for Cruz is scheduled for Feb. 20 before Judge Peter Cahill.