Woman sentenced to 10 days in jail, probation for role in fatal crash near Glenville beach

Published 9:41 pm Thursday, October 7, 2021

A 20-year-old woman was sentenced to 10 days in jail and up to 10 years of probation Thursday for her role in the fatal crash last year that killed an Albert Lea teenager and seriously injured another on the gravel road near Glenville beach.

Shelby Watkins

Shelby Luv Watkins, who now lives in Mower County, in July pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting criminal vehicular operation tied to the crash on Aug. 27, 2020. 

Freeborn County District Court Judge Steve Schwab before his sentencing said Watkins had handed the keys of her vehicle to someone she shouldn’t have, and doing so had tragic consequences. 

The car, driven by Dominik Boots-Ringoen, later crashed on 795th Avenue, killing 17-year-old passenger James Joseph Amarosa III of Albert Lea and severely injuring Cameron Michael Cunningham of Twin Lakes. Watkins and passenger Chase Garza were also injured.

Boots-Ringoen, who didn’t have a valid license and had a pending DWI charge, had been drinking prior to getting into the car.

He admitted in July to losing control of the car while drifting on the road, a technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers to cause a loss of traction and causes the vehicle to drift sideways. The car was heading southbound on 795th Avenue when it went into the ditch and struck a tree.

Dominik Boots-Ringoen

Prior to the crash, Watkins was hanging out of the passenger window and said she remembered having to get back into the vehicle before it crashed.

Before Schwab issued his sentence, Freeborn County Attorney David Walker argued for Watkins to spend 30 days in jail along with up to 10 year of probation to impress upon Watkins the seriousness of the offense. Watkins’ lawyer, Kyle Dreger, argued Watkins serve no jail time and instead serve more time on sentence to serve with the probation. 

Dreger said since the crash Watkins has done a lot to work on herself because “she knew she needed to change.” He referenced therapy and working two jobs. 

Watkins in a statement said she was “truly sorry” for the pain she has caused and accepted all consequences for the careless decisions she made that night. 

“I really wish I could go back in the past but I cannot,” she said. 

Schwab said he could not in good conscience give a sentence without jail time in the case.

“If someone dies, serving no jail time just doesn’t make sense,” Schwab said before announcing the 10-day jail term. Watkins will be able to utilize work release while in jail. 

Schwab issued a stay of imposition and ordered several conditions, including not possessing or using alcohol or drugs and not voting until discharged from her probation and her rights were restored. He also ordered chemical and mental health assessments and ordered Watkins joint and severally with Boots-Ringoen pay almost $17,500 in restitution to Amarosa’s family. The judge did not order sentence to service hours to encourage Watkins to focus on the restitution. 

Boots-Ringoen, who was slated to be sentenced in a separate hearing prior to Watkins, will now be sentenced Dec. 27 after Schwab asked that Boots-Ringoen’s lawyer submit in writing his motion for a downward dispositional departure from Minnesota sentencing guidelines for his client. 

Boots-Ringoen pleaded guilty in July to criminal vehicular homicide, which involved driving in a “grossly negligent manner” during the crash. 

Schwab said the sentencing would be a “life-changing” decision for him to make, not only for Boots-Ringoen, but also for the family of Amarosa.

 

‘He had so much potential’

Krista Klingenberg, cousin of Amarosa, shared how she was 8 years old when her cousin was born. The family was extra excited because his mother had trouble getting pregnant.

She said she missed his laugh and would do anything to hear it again. She said her cousin wanted to travel and explore, and enjoyed things such as soccer, video games and vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. 

“He had so much potential, and I can’t believe I won’t be able to see the positive influence he could have on the world,” she said. 

She said every day, the family is forced to face the tragedy again, and she has nightmares about Amarosa’s final moments. 

“My family is broken, and one of the very best pieces is missing,” she said. 

Karla Klingenberg, an aunt of Amarosa, said she was at home on Aug. 27, 2020, when she got a call from her youngest sister, who was sobbing uncontrollably, and who told her that her son was dead. 

They packed up and traveled 12 hours the next day to be with them, and when they arrived they found her sister broken-hearted and her sister’s husband distraught. She said it has been a nightmare for both sides of the family, noting she had also lost her own mother due to what she described as a “freak accident with a drunk driver.”

She said the owner of the car carrying her nephew knew that the driver had been drinking and didn’t have a license, but she still handed her keys over. 

She questioned what would have happened if the roles were reversed that night, and said she hopes many people learn from the mistakes of that day. 

“Life will get easier someday, but for now we’re torn apart,” she said. 

Kris Amarosa, Amarosa’s mother, said she had texted her son about an hour before the crash about getting a bigger fish tank the next day. Instead of getting a bigger fish tank, however, she ended up planning a funeral.

She talked about the trauma she and her family continue to face because of her son’s death. She said she recently had to take a CPR class for her work and had to leave in the middle of it because it brought her back to the night of her son’s death. She also noted the struggles her husband is facing, noting that even a year later he doesn’t go a day without breaking down. 

Tiffany Mehus, who described Amarosa as her best friend, said she would talk to him every morning before school, and they sometimes had breakfast or coffee together before school, too. 

“I just wish this would have never happened,” she said.