A maximum of five months in jail is the anticipated sentence for a 25-year-old southern Minnesota motorist who was distracted by his cellphone when he rammed his SUV into the back of a stopped car on a highway, killing the other driver and her daughter.
Tanner R. Kruckeberg of Dodge Center pleaded guilty last week in Dodge County District Court to criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the crash on Sept. 7, 2018, that killed Rachel Harberts, 43, and her 8-year-old daughter, Emerson.
Harberts' 13-year-old son, Jaxon, also was in the vehicle and suffered serious injuries.
Rachel Harberts, also of Dodge Center, was a first-grade teacher and junior high volleyball coach at the Blooming Prairie schools. She and her children were heading to school for the start of classes. Emerson was a third-grader and Jaxon was in seventh grade.
Under the plea agreement filed with the court and reached between the defense and the county attorney's office, Kruckeberg is expected to serve 30 days in jail annually for up to five years and "talk to classes about his story to youth." He will not do time in prison.
Kruckeberg admitted to authorities that while driving his family's 4,700-pound Hummer H3, "he was looking down at his center console area to put away his cellular phone, when he looked up [and] rear-ended the [Harberts'] Mercury," according to a search warrant affidavit filed by the State Patrol.
His Minnesota driving record shows that he has been piling up infractions in southern Minnesota from age 16, even after the fatal crash. On July 11 of this year, he was pulled over by Owatonna police and ticketed for driving 41 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone.
In 2014, Kruckeberg was convicted of using his cellphone to text while driving after dark on Hwy. 52 in Rochester, according to court records. He was convicted at least nine other times for speeding and three times for driving while his license was suspended, and also has been convicted five times for underage drinking and once for drug possession.
His license was valid at the time of last year's crash, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482