A Twin Cities man has been charged in a hit-and-run crash that killed two men more than six years ago in western Wisconsin.
Andrew M. Endres, 32, of Randolph, was charged Wednesday in Polk County (Wis.) Circuit Court with two counts of hit and run resulting in death in connection with the crash that killed Richard L. Cobenais Jr., 41, who lived near Luck, Wis., and Benjamin R. Juarez, 28, of Frederic, Wis.
Endres, a longtime firefighter in his community, was booked into the Dakota County jail Wednesday and has a hearing scheduled for Friday in Hastings, where his extradition to Wisconsin will be addressed.
Cobenais and Juarez were struck by a pickup truck and killed shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 11, 2014, along County Road E, northeast of Balsam Lake. The two had been at a home and got into a fight that spilled into the road, where they were struck, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
St. Croix Tribal Police Chief Frank Taylor, whose agency assisted in the investigation, said at a news conference Thursday that he recalled saying, “ ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” when Sheriff Brent Waak told him of Endres’ arrest Wednesday.
“The families of Richard and Ben have shown me that you never give up hope, you never give up searching and you never give up believing,” Taylor said.
Thomas Fowler, one of Cobenais’ stepchildren, followed up and said the case “has impacted so many families,” including those related to Endres.
“The last thing we need is hate, negativity and anger,” Fowler said. “This shows no matter where you come from, your ethnicity, your class, everyone deserves justice.”
According to the charges:
The pickup stopped after the collision, and Endres and another man walked toward the spot where the men were on the ground. One of the vehicle’s occupants said, “We need to get out of here,” before the pair drove off, according to one witness.
They fled the scene, the man explained to authorities, “because they were both scared and didn’t know what to do,” the charging document continued. In subsequent years they “had not talked about the incident … and both tried not to talk about it as it brought about bad memories/feelings,” the criminal complaint read.
On Sept. 28, 2020, a man called the Sheriff’s Office and said his estranged wife heard Endres say he ran over the two men and was drunk at the time. She added that she was helping Endres cope with the deaths.
A law enforcement search of Endres’ cellphone revealed that he was in the area less than five hours before the collision and until late the next morning before heading back to Minnesota.
On Oct. 13, the pickup was located in Crow Wing County under new ownership and seized by law enforcement.
Wisconsin investigators met Endres on Oct. 14 at a meat market near his home in Hampton, where he works. He said his parents have a cabin in Polk County and that he owned a pickup several years ago but sold it.
Asked about the hit-and-run, Endres said, “ ‘I hate to tell you, [but] I think you’re going on a wild-goose chase.’ ”
He went on to say he wasn’t near the crash scene and always worked on Saturdays. Confronted with information that his cellphone was in the area the day before the crash, Endres ended the interview.
On Oct. 18, a man told investigators that he and Endres were at the family cabin on the day of the crash with others and were drinking.
The man and Endres left the cabin in the pickup. It was on that trip when Endres ran over the two men, the witness said. They drove back to the cabin, and Endres started cleaning the pickup with bleach.
His attorney, Kevin DeVore, said Thursday that Endres “has never admitted that he was at his cabin on that particular weekend” in the area where the crash occurred, as the criminal complaint states.