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3/27/2013: Red Wing woman charged with vehicular homicide

ELLSWORTH -- A Red Wing woman facing multiple counts related to vehicular homicide made her first appearance in Pierce County Circuit Court Monday.

Cassandra Cleo Smith, 20, is accused of driving while intoxicated and causing an accident last October that resulted in the death of a Minnesota man.

Smith was charged March 8 with vehicular homicide by intoxicated use, vehicular homicide by use of controlled substance and negligent operation of a vehicle causing homicide. The first two charges are Class D felonies, while the third is a Class G.

According to the criminal complaint:

The accident happened Oct. 3 on Highway 63, near County Road K, in Trimbelle township. Witnesses told Pierce County law enforcement a black passenger car was southbound on 63, swerving all over the road, and went into the northbound lane, where it collided head-on with a motorcycle.

Police went to check on the passenger vehicle, where Smith identified herself. She said she was coming from Red Wing, which didn't match the witnesses' statements. She later told police she fell asleep, causing the accident. She then denied drinking intoxicants or taking any drugs prior to the accident.

Smith was transferred to River Falls Area Hospital, where a legal blood sample was taken. She told investigators she left her house in Red Wing and was on her way to Ellsworth when she missed her turn and that's why she was headed southbound on 63. Investigators asked if Smith was using her phone while she was driving. She said the last phone call or text she got was before she left her house, which was confirmed by a search of her phone records.

The two occupants on the motorcycle -- driver Dennis R. Manning, 65, and passenger, Stephanie L. Foster, 38 -- were being airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Investigators talked to Foster the next day.

Foster said the two lived in Pine Island and were going for a motorcycle ride when they decided to travel into Wisconsin. As they were heading north on 63, she said they saw the vehicle swerving, so Manning started slowing down and kept expecting the car to snap back into the southbound lane. However, the car continued toward the ditch on their side.

Manning tried swerving left, but, by then, the collision occurred. The complaint listed Foster's injuries as a fractured humerus, contusion of right ankle, scalp laceration and several abrasions.

Manning died later that day at Regions.

The Wisconsin State Patrol did a reconstruction of the accident, and confirmed Foster's and the witnesses' accounts that Smith's vehicle crossed the center line and struck Manning's motorcycle.

Investigators got the results of Smith's blood draw in January and, while no alcohol was found, the presence of marijuana was.

The Class D felonies carry a maximum penalty of $100,000 and 25 years prison, if found guilty. A Class G felony is a $25,000 fine and 10 years prison.