County 34 washout case steps ever closer to a jury trial

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The lawyer for the driver of the sport-utility truck that crashed into a washout on Freeborn County Road 34 last summer, in which two people died, on Monday requested a contested omnibus hearing for his client.

Lawyer Cean F. Shands of West St. Paul noted he and the Freeborn County Attorney’s Office are still in negotiations on the case of Charles Kenneth Dennison after being denied a plea agreement in August.

The case is likely to move forward to trial.

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Dennison, 21, faces nine counts of criminal vehicular operation and six counts of criminal vehicular homicide — all of which are felonies.

The charges stemmed from events that took place the night of June 29, 2008.

Police reports say Dennison drove a 2003 Chevy Avalanche around the right side of “road closed” barricades on County 34 and 778 feet later was going 40 mph southbound when the sport-utility truck crashed into a washout, killing two passengers. The washout had been present on the eastern Freeborn County byway since heavy rains on the night of June 11, 2008.

Court files state Dennison was the driver that night, and his passengers were Nathan Buchli of Albert Lea in the front seat and four people in the back seat: Langdon Bachtle of Myrtle, Kelly Jo Abrego of Myrtle, Kelly John Pechumer of Albert Lea and Broc Dempewolf of Albert Lea.

Abrego and Pechumer died as a result of injuries sustained in the wreck. Abrego is Dennison’s aunt and her three children are his cousins. Buchli is also his cousin.

The court files state Dennison’s blood-alcohol level was found to be a 0.16 level when measured via blood sample two hours after the crash.

At the contested omnibus hearing — the date of which has not yet been announced — Shands will be able to raise any additional concerns about the case of his client.

No other action was taken during the Monday default hearing.