The unlicensed driver who hit and killed a woman along a road in Blaine told police that he thought he struck either a dog or a sign and not a person before leaving the scene, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday.
John R. Jones, 31, was charged in Anoka County District Court with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the hit-and-run crash Monday afternoon that killed 56-year-old Bridget O'Keefe Dunn, who was walking her dog near her home when she was hit along NE. 109th Avenue near NE. Flanders Court.
Jones appeared in court Wednesday morning and remains jailed in lieu of $70,000 bail. His next court hearing is set for Dec. 9. Court records do not list an attorney for him.
He was driving that afternoon even though his license was suspended, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said.
Dunn's husband said Wednesday that 109th, which has no sidewalk or trail, was a common place for them to walk despite concerns about traffic. Chris Dunn said he found out his wife was walking on the shoulder with their dog, Sully, who made it home after the crash.
"Last week we were talking about how fast cars come down," Chris Dunn said in an interview Wednesday. "She said, 'I don't like walking on that road.' "
The speed limit on the two-lane road is 55 mph, but Dunn said drivers routinely travel at 65 or 70 mph. "I'm probably guilty as well. This is a good wake-up call that life is short and can change in an instant," he said.
He said a new development in the neighborhood has brought even more traffic. He said hopes his wife's death will lead to something being installed for pedestrians. "Hopefully, they can do something," Dunn said. "There is a pretty good-size space to walk."
Blaine has identified the need for a trail along 109th and included it in its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, said city spokesman Ben Hayle. The county also has seen the need to expand 109th to a four-lane divided road but has been unable to secure funding. The city would put in the trail at the time of the road being widened, Hayle said.
"The tragedy is the reason the trail is identified in our 2040 plan," Hayle said. "We want the safest way to have pedestrian access throughout the community."
County engineer Joe MacPherson said his department is considering long- and short-term solutions for the corridor. "It has to be more than a spot fix," he said.
According to the complaint:
Witnesses at the crash scene told police that the motorist "was driving erratically" on westbound 109th at the time his car hit Dunn as she walked on the north edge of the road, the court filing read. The driver stopped after about 100 yards and then fled west on 109th.
Officers used license plate and other official records to locate Jones less than 40 minutes later about 4 miles east of the crash scene at his home, where they spoke with his girlfriend.
She showed them the car, which had the hood open and the driver's side up on a jack. It was leaking fluids and had a missing driver's side mirror, a broken headlight, a damaged front bumper and a fender "pushed so far back [that] the driver's door was unusable," the complaint continued.
The woman said that Jones told her he had struck a dog or a sign and not to tell anyone about what happened.
Law enforcement then spoke with Jones and he stood by what he told his girlfriend. He said the crash happened while he was running an errand. Instead of stopping after the collision, he said he put the car in the garage to assess the damage.
Bridget Dunn owned Body Sense Pilates and Wellness Studio, where scores of patrons stopped by to mourn and share stories.
She had been a Pilates instructor at Life Time before she opened the studio three years ago, a dream she had long had, said instructor Gina Brown. Many of her customers followed her from Life Time.
"She was the fiercest friend with the kindest heart," Brown said. "She didn't see people as a dollar sign. She saw them as individuals and gave them what they needed physically, mentally and emotionally. She changed many lives around here. She will be forever missed."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482