Plea hearing today for driver charged in washout deaths

Published 9:51 am Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A plea hearing for the driver of the sport-utility truck that crashed into a washout on Freeborn County Road 34 last June, in which two people died, is scheduled for Wednesday in Freeborn County District Court.

The driver, Charles Kenneth Dennison, 20, of Albert Lea, faces nine counts of criminal vehicular operation and six counts of criminal vehicular homicide — all of which are felonies — stemming from events that took place the night of June 29.

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.

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Court files state Dennison — commonly called Kenny — 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.

In correspondence with the Tribune in April, Dennison’s lawyer, Cean F. Shands of West St. Paul, said he suspected the matter would be resolved with a plea. He did not expand on that plea.

A call to Shands Monday was not returned.

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. All of Dennison’s passengers in the sport-utility truck were also under the influence of alcohol, according to the files. They had gone to a town festival in Lyle from Myrtle and were taking a roundabout way from Lyle to Myrtle.