The 18-year-old driver who sped up to 105 mph through a south Minneapolis neighborhood before broadsiding a pickup truck, killing three people inside, was sentenced Wednesday to more than 32 years in prison.
Dozens of family members and friends of the victims — Kimberly M. Gunderson, 48, and husband and wife Kenneth Carpentier, 64, and Sheryl Carpentier, 65 — packed Hennepin County District Court’s second-largest courtroom, which seats 42 people. In an unusual move, the courtroom doors were left open so several supporters in the hallway could listen as Dayquan Hodge was sentenced for the Sept. 23, 2018, crash outside of Minneapolis’ famed Matt’s Bar.
Hodge had smoked marijuana as he drove a stolen SUV that night, was on probation for felony burglary and was fleeing the State Patrol at the time, said court documents.
Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson sentenced Hodge to nearly 11 years in prison for each victim. The terms will run consecutively, for a total prison sentence of 32½ years.
“There’s no question that you’ve experienced trauma in your short life,” Anderson said. “However, I am confident you were making choices that day. … You could’ve stopped at any point, but you didn’t.”
The State Patrol first spotted Hodge about 1:15 a.m. as he drove on I-94 south of downtown Minneapolis. A trooper activated emergency lights but Hodge fled, eventually traveling southbound on S. Cedar Avenue. He blew through two red lights.
Troopers abandoned the pursuit, but a State Patrol helicopter tracked the vehicle from the air.
Hodge ran his third red light at S. Cedar Avenue and E. 35th St. at 1:22 a.m. and T-boned the 5,000-pound pickup truck, causing it to wrap around a pole.
The truck’s occupants, who were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene, had just left a reunion for South Side residents.
“Three people that I loved were tragically taken from my life in a horrific way,” Britni Christenson, Sheryl Carpentier’s daughter, said in her victim-impact statement. “To have one person taken from you so suddenly, you don’t have time to even think of how it will completely change your life — let alone having three taken at once.”
Along with Christenson, Gunderson’s cousin Christine Groenke and Kenneth Carpentier’s two children — Anthony and Lindsey Carpentier — told the court that their loved ones were “pillars of the South Side community.”
“She could always spot a person who felt left out or lonely, and she would reach out to them with kind words or even a hug to let them know they were important and cared for,” Groenke said of Gunderson.
Lindsey Carpentier said her father and stepmother, who split time between the Twin Cities and Arizona, were “amazing people with huge hearts.”
When Hodge pleaded guilty in April to three counts of criminal vehicular homicide while fleeing police, he agreed to a term of between 25 and 40 years.
Assistant Hennepin County Prosecutor Rachel Kraker argued for 37½ years.
According to court documents: The crash left Hodge with life-threatening injuries and also injured four juveniles riding with him at the time. Seven other charges filed against Hodge, including for the injury of his passengers, were dismissed as part of his plea deal.
Hodge’s attorney, Lindsay Siolka, argued for the lowest term, or a midrange sentence, which Anderson granted.
“They are beyond tragic for all involved,” Siolka said of the events that night. “If there’s anything he could do to take it back, I know he would.”
Siolka argued that Hodge deserved less time because of a brain injury he suffered at the age of 5 from falling three stories onto his head, “significant” childhood abuse, and 11 placements in foster homes and programs, which all factored into his actions.
Siolka called neuropsychologist Dr. Norman Cohen to speak about Hodge’s mental health. Cohen told the court that Hodge has mental impairment from head trauma that makes it difficult for him to pay attention, regulate his behavior, control his emotions, have self-awareness and understand the effects of his actions on others.
Hodge, who didn’t react noticeably in court, offered an apology when given an opportunity to speak.
“I am very sorry, and I wish I could take back what I did,” he said. “I know that there’s nothing I can do to make this right.”
The State Patrol’s crash reconstruction showed that Hodge was traveling between 85 and 92 mph upon impact with the truck, according to court documents.
“It’s just really hard to think that the amount of time that he got is enough for three people,” said Christenson. “ … It’s frustrating but hopefully it’s enough for him to make changes.”
“I feel like today opens a brand-new door because we’re done with this process,” Lindsey Carpentier said. “Now we get to actually feel what it’s like to not have them.”