A 57-year-old woman will serve no more than six months in jail after admitting in court to being on her cellphone when she blew through a stop sign at a southern Dakota County intersection, broadsiding a car and killing the passenger.
Lori J. Hoefs, of Oronoco, Minn., agreed to plead guilty Monday in Dakota County District Court to gross misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor careless driving in connection with the collision in Hampton Township on Oct. 22, 2016, that killed 78-year-old Brenda K. Travis of Rochester and seriously injured her brother, Glen Travis.
Hoefs was charged in June 2018 with felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation. Her plea agreement calls for those charges, which likely would have resulted in prison time upon conviction, to be dismissed.
Other terms of the plea deal call for Hoefs to serve from three to six months in jail, two years’ probation and pay restitution in an amount to be determined. A one-year sentence will be stayed, and Hoefs must complete 30 hours of community service, including speaking to groups about the risks of distracted driving.
Judge Jerome Abrams ordered an investigation ahead of formal sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Glen Travis said the terms of the plea deal were “kind of what we suggested — instead of a real harsh punishment — to be taught a lesson.”
He added that he didn’t want the sentence to cost Hoefs her license as a registered nurse, which she has held for more than 35 years.
“We do wonder why she didn’t assist” Brenda Travis at the crash scene, he said, “but I guess she was in total shock.”
Assistant County Attorney Phil Prokopowicz said that the Travis family’s wishes played a role in the terms of the plea agreement, along with Hoefs’ expression of remorse for the death she caused.
Brenda Travis received an education degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield and a master’s from the University of Minnesota before embarking on a teaching career that lasted decades and covered several continents.
After teaching high school for two years in Morgan, Minn., Travis taught business for 32 years through the Department of Defense Overseas Dependent Schools. In that role, she worked in Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Japan and the Philippines.
‘Talking to a friend’
Hoefs told authorities at the time that “she had the phone on speakerphone but was holding it while talking to a friend” as she drove west on County Road 88 into the intersection at Hwy. 56, the criminal complaint read.
The charges added that Hoefs “did not stop, brake or make any evasive maneuvers before the crash.”
According to the complaint, she passed a sign warning her of the stop sign ahead at the intersection and drove over pavement painted with the words “STOP AHEAD.”
Her SUV struck the passenger side of the Travis’ car. Brenda Travis was dead at the scene, and her brother suffered rib fractures and a broken pelvis.
The impact sent the car crashing into a third vehicle. Two people in that SUV suffered minor injuries. Hoefs was not hurt.