"A strong odor of alcohol" came from the suspect, an officer said.
Updated: August 20, 2012 - 11:46 PM
The 21-year-old man involved in a Friday night crash that killed three generations of an Eden Prairie family was charged on Monday with criminal vehicular homicide.
Paul Wickenhauser of Cokato, Minn., told officers that he had been drinking the night of the crash, according to the criminal complaint. They found a broken rum bottle in the road, an open bottle of liquor in the cab of his pickup truck and a case of beer in the back.
Michelle Hoffman, her 8-year-old daughter Julia and 5-year-old son Jason were riding with Hoffman's mother-in-law, Marta Stoffers, 68, near Willmar when the truck crashed head-on into their minivan. Officers found the van on fire in a ditch just after 9 p.m., according to the complaint.
Michelle Hoffman, 40, and Stoffers died at the scene. Julia was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center, where she died. Family and friends said Jason is recovering and will be released from the hospital this week.
"Our entire family is consumed with shock and sorrow right now," said Melissa Bodin, whose mother, sister-in-law and niece died in the crash. "The pain we are feeling is indescribable."
The Hoffman family of six was spending the summer with relatives and planned to return soon to Oman, on the Arabian Sea, where the parents had worked for the past two years at the American International School of Muscat. On Facebook, dozens of friends have offered condolences and prayers to Michael Hoffman, Michelle's husband, and his sons.
Stoffers' funeral will be held in her hometown of Atwater on Thursday, with visitation on Wednesday.
Complaint describes scene
Wickenhauser is set to appear in court at 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office.
His attorney, Lynne Torgerson, said by phone Monday that "his family is sorry for the other family's loss. They are in their thoughts and prayers."
She declined to respond to specific allegations, saying that she had not yet seen the charges.
According to the complaint issued on Monday, when officers came upon the crash scene, Wickenhauser "was pacing back and forth and his hands and arms were shaking violently." He told officers he started drinking at home at about 5 p.m. that night, and had about five 12-ounce beers before 7:15 p.m. A preliminary breath test gave a reading of 0.07.
Wickenhauser told officers he had crossed the two-lane highway's center line by about a foot or so. "He said that the other vehicle must have thought he was going into the wrong lane so they went into his lane," the complaint says. "He stated that he swerved back into his lane and at that point in time the two vehicles collided."
At the hospital, a deputy sheriff detected "a strong odor of alcohol coming from Wickenhauser and also noticed that his eyes were bloodshot and dilated," the complaint says. "Officers also observed that Wickenhauser had vomited in the toilet several times."
'Justice, if that is possible'
Wickenhauser faces three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, each carrying a possible penalty of 10 years in prison, a $20,000 fine or both. He is also charged with one count of criminal vehicle injury for Jason's injuries, as well as one misdemeanor count of possession of an open bottle.
Bodin said by e-mail that the family has "complete faith in the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office and their abilities to bring some sort of justice, if that is possible."
Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168 Twitter: @ByJenna
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