Guilty plea by driver distracted by sex

Published 9:36 am Wednesday, October 3, 2012

MANKATO — A southern Minnesota man who veered into oncoming traffic last year, killing another driver and a woman with whom he allegedly was having sex with while driving, has pleaded guilty in exchange for a recommended four-year prison term.

Mark Anders Chalin, 24, entered his guilty plea to criminal vehicular homicide on Monday in Blue Earth District Court.

Prosecutors say Chalin, of Mankato, collided head-on into a car being driven by Jonna Martin, a 35-year-old mother of four on Aug. 7, 2011, on County Road 90. Martin, of Lakeview, and Chalin’s passenger, 23-year-old Amber Menezes, were killed and Chalin was hospitalized for 45 days with 26 broken bones.

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Witnesses told police that just before the collision, they saw Menezes straddling Chalin in the driver’s seat, blocking his view of the road.

Chalin told Judge Bradley Walker Monday that he agreed to plead guilty because he doesn’t remember what happened, but understood a jury had enough evidence to convict him.

He said he remembered leaving his father’s house in Delavan with Menezes in his car and making a couple of turns while driving to his apartment in Mankato.

“The next thing I remember is waking up in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,” Chalin said. “I don’t remember which day. It could have been Aug. 7, Aug. 8 or Aug. 9.”

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney is recommending a 48-month sentence as part of the plea agreement. Chalin’s attorney, Jacob Birkholz, said he planned to argue for a lesser sentence.

Menezes’ mother, Michelle Scholl, who attended the hearing, said she doesn’t support the plea agreement.

“I will never have grandchildren from my daughter. She was somebody who did something with her life. He is a repeat offender. He has taken no responsibility. How can you be sorry for something if you don’t think you did anything wrong? That’s my question,” Scholl said.

Chalin has a record of more than a dozen past charges, including harassment and trespassing.

Martin’s fiance, Roger Thompson, didn’t attend. He said during a June hearing that he had already used up all of his vacation time to be at earlier hearings.

Chalin’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Dec. 10.