A woman has admitted to being high on opioids when her speeding pickup truck veered from the street near the University of Minnesota women's soccer facility and fatally struck a 29-year-old former Gophers track athlete.
Melinda J. Dotray, 47, of Rockford agreed to plead guilty in Ramsey County District Court last week to criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the crash in Falcon Heights on Aug. 14, 2021, that killed Abigail "Abby" Anderson.
In exchange for her plea, the County Attorney's Office said it would dismiss all other counts including a more serious third-degree murder charge.
"After reviewing the evidence as presented by law enforcement, it is not certain that we could prove Dotray's intent at the time of the offense," Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the County Attorney's Office, said Monday.
"Specifically, we were unable to support the amended Murder 3 charge, where we must prove she had a 'depraved mind,' " Gerhardstein continued. "The original [criminal vehicular homicide] charge was the appropriate charge for the conduct on the day in question."
The plea agreement noted that terms of Dotray's sentence remain for the prosecution and her defense to argue before Judge Andrew Gordon. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Defense attorney John Conard said that had the case gone to trial on the initial charges, "we would have likely prevailed at trial. ... This case never should have been overcharged."
Conard added that his client "didn't have any criminal history before this. ... She's 47 years old and got sucked in by this poison."
Abby Anderson was the sister of Gabriele "Gabe" Grunewald, an elite middle-distance runner from Perham, Minn., who died in 2019 from adenoid cystic carcinoma, which was diagnosed in 2009 while she was running for the University of Minnesota. Abby also ran for the Gophers after starring in track at Perham High School.
Like her sister, Abby Anderson was an avid runner right up until her death. She ran the 2019 New York City Marathon in honor of her sister.
Abby Anderson, of Minneapolis, was struck about 7 p.m. in the 1700 block of Cleveland Avenue N., north of Larpenteur Avenue. She died that night at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
The sisters' father, Kim Anderson, said a couple of days after the crash that Abby was hit while heading to the soccer field to see her boyfriend coach a match.
Sheriff's deputies at the scene learned that Dotray's pickup hit and seriously damaged a parked car on Cleveland Avenue. Dotray also hit Abby Anderson, who was walking on the grass nearby, then drove through a fence onto the Les Boland Golf Course and hit her again while returning to the road.
Data retrieved from the truck revealed that Dotray was going more than 60 miles per hour when she hit the car. The speed limit on Cleveland is 40 mph.
Investigators searched Dotray's pickup truck and recovered drugs in the glove compartment. Tests on them revealed the presence of methamphetamine.
A sample of her blood submitted to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension revealed numerous illicit drugs in her system, including amphetamine, methamphetamine and fentanyl.