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Published July 27, 2012, 08:23 AM

Drunken driving offenders take funeral over jail

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Three drunken driving offenders attended the funeral of a West Fargo family that was killed by a drunken driver after a municipal judge gave them a choice: Go to the funeral, or spend five days in the county jail.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Three drunken driving offenders attended the funeral of a West Fargo family that was killed by a drunken driver after a municipal judge gave them a choice: Go to the funeral, or spend five days in the county jail.

One of the offenders, Allan Bakkerud, 55, of Fargo, wrote a letter afterward to Judge Steve Dawson, saying he would have difficulty coping if he killed someone as the result of his own drinking and driving.

"It made me sick to my stomach," Bakkerud wrote of his experience at the funeral. "Four lives were taken, when they had a lifetime they never got."

The Forum reported Friday that Bakkerud and two other offenders, Shantel Netterville, 26, of Fargo, and Michael G. Hanson, 44, of West Fargo, attended the July 12 funeral rather than serve five days in jail.

The three weren't involved in the July 6 wreck that killed Allison Deutscher; her husband, Aaron Deutscher, and the couple's 18-month-old daughter, Brielle. The family was killed when a pickup truck driven by Wyatt Klein, 28, of Jamestown, collided with the Deutschers' SUV.

Klein, who also died in the wreck, was driving the wrong way in the westbound lanes of Interstate 94 when the vehicles slammed head-on about 30 miles west of Jamestown.

Dawson said DUI offenders often are sentenced to attend victim impact panels to impress upon them how drinking and driving affects the lives of victims and their families.

"But this was such a horrific event and so recent, that I wanted to use this to kind of convey that message right then and there," Dawson told The Forum.

Klein's blood-alcohol content was 0.25 percent, three times the 0.08 limit at which a person is considered to be under the influence by state law.

Dawson said he hadn't wanted to intrude on the Deutschers' family with his sentence, but he reasoned that the public attention paid to the accident meant others would be there who did not know the victims.

"I think it's useful for people to realize just what kind of tragedy can result from their behavior and how it affects real lives and real families," Dawson said. "So often people in the position of drinking and driving just lose sight of that and, of course, always believe that this won't happen to them."

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