A 67-year-old woman has been ordered to spend five months in jail for hitting and killing a motorcyclist while driving nearly four years ago in Anoka County.
Sherry L. Thatcher, of Ham Lake, was sentenced Thursday in District Court after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular operation in connection with the collision July 2, 2019, in Ham Lake that killed Daniel R. Priess, 33, of Blaine.
Judge Melissa Saterbak set aside an 18-month prison sentence and put Thatcher on supervised probation for five years. Saterbak also ordered Thatcher to serve her five months in jail one month at a time starting every July 2, the date of the crash.
Priess, who was born and raised in Germany, was a German language teacher at Blaine High School at the time of the crash. He also taught German at Anoka High School in 2017-18 and English as a second language for two summers at Northdale Middle School in Coon Rapids.
As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution dismissed the more serious count of criminal vehicular homicide, which alleged she was driving in a grossly negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol.
The charges said that Thatcher's blood alcohol content soon after the crash was 0.038%, less than half what typically is needed to draw a charge related to drinking and driving.
Thatcher's attorney, Eric Doolittle, said in February his client has gone through alcohol treatment and has been sober since the crash. Thatcher's criminal history includes two drunken driving convictions from the 1990s.
According to the criminal complaint:
Thatcher was driving her pickup north on Lexington Avenue about 4:15 p.m., came up to a flashing yellow arrow traffic signal, made a left-hand turn onto Bunker Lake Boulevard and hit Priess' southbound motorcycle.
She said she saw the motorcycle approaching "but thought she had enough time to make the turn," the charges read. "The defendant admitted to consuming two 16-ounce beers before driving."