An unlicensed driver with a history of “huffing” chemicals has been charged with killing two people in a wrong-way crash near St. Cloud this week.
Charlie R. Barnett, 28, of St. Cloud, was charged Wednesday in Stearns County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Barnett was hospitalized and then jailed in lieu of $1 million bail ahead of his next court appearance on July 23.
Richard Tomlinson, 61, of Grantsburg, Wis., was test-driving a 1970s Chevrolet El Camino with the car’s owner, 77-year-old Roger Nelson, of nearby Clearwater, on Monday on eastbound W. Division Street in Waite Park.
Barnett drove through the median into the opposite lanes and crashed into the classic car about 7:15 p.m. near 4th Avenue S., according to the criminal complaint.
Witnesses said Barnett was traveling “well over the speed limit [and] did not appear to slow down or try to avoid the crash in any way,” the complaint read.
An aerosol can of dust cleaner was located by officers on the driver’s-side floor of the car Barnett was driving, according to the charges. Surveillance video taken less than 5 minutes before the crash captured him buying two cans of dust cleaner at a nearby Best Buy, the charges noted.
Authorities later learned that Barnett has a history of huffing dust cleaner, and he was seen doing just that a week earlier and “falling over,” the charges continued. Witnesses said Barnett was “acting in a strange manner” after the crash and had bloodshot eyes, the charges read. He was taken to St. Cloud Hospital, where he said he had an anxiety attack and could not recall the crash.
Barnett was driving a car owned by the mother of their children, and he is under court order to not have contact with her, according to the complaint. She told police that he “must have grabbed her car keys” while visiting her Waite Park home roughly 45 minutes before the collision, the complaint read.
Barnett’s license was revoked at the time of the collision, having lost it in March following a drunken-driving allegation, the state Department of Public Safety said Thursday.
Funeral services are scheduled for Monday for Nelson, who was a member of the Litchfield Fire Department for 17 years. Services for Tomlinson have yet to be announced.