The most prolific drunken driver in Minnesota history, with 28 arrests, has died less than a month after leaving prison for his last offense.
Danny Lee Bettcher, 67, of New York Mills, died on Oct. 20 at his home from what his family said in an obituary was natural causes.
“Although his life may be best described as wayward,” the online obituary read, “Danny would help anyone with anything and deep down had a heart of gold.”
Bettcher, 65, was sentenced in February 2018 by Otter Tail County District Judge Waldemar Senyk to a 4½-year term for driving drunk on Sept. 28, 2017, after leaving a VFW hall in New York Mills.
Bettcher served the first 2⅔ years or so in prison. He was released from the Moose Lake prison on Sept. 28 and placed on supervised release. A check of court records Tuesday showed no further legal trouble for Bettcher in the brief time he was a free man, and his local Sheriff’s Office said it had no contact with him in recent weeks.
Before his final DWI, Bettcher’s criminal history included a previous four-year term in prison for a prior drunken driving offense, and he had been ordered to treatment at least a dozen times.
At an Otter Tail County court hearing in 2010 for arrest No. 27, the occasional construction worker and handyman said, “I drink to get drunk.”
At the time of his 28th DWI, Bettcher had a valid driver’s license despite spending much of the past 10 years in and out of jails and prison for drinking and driving. There is no circumstance under which the state can take away someone’s license for life. Department of Public Safety officials said Bettcher did not obtain a valid driver’s license after leaving prison.
Some legislators have attempted without success to add Minnesota to the few states that permanently ban drivers from being licensed after several DWI convictions.
Bettcher graduated from high school in Deer Creek in 1971 and served in the Minnesota National Guard. His obituary said he was a “Jack of all Trades but was most talented when it came to mechanics.”
Bettcher is preceded in death by a brother and survived by three sisters and a brother. Services are pending.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482