Hartland man sentenced to nearly 5 years in fatal hit and run

Published 9:47 am Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leslie David Jones, 52

Leslie David Jones, 52

ALBERT LEA — A Hartland man who pleaded guilty in May in connection with December’s fatal hit-and-run crash was sentenced to nearly five years in prison Wednesday in Freeborn County District Court.

Leslie David Jones, 52, will serve his sentence at a Minnesota correctional facility in St. Cloud. He is expected to serve about 38 months in prison and 19 months on parole, pending good behavior.

He was given credit for 216 days served.

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Jones was charged with criminal vehicular homicide in the Dec. 16 crash on East Main Street that killed Joanne Carol Klein, 66, of Albert Lea.

Prior to sentencing, Jones’ lawyer, Daniel Donnelly, said Jones should receive a probationary sentence to give him the opportunity to help himself, noting he thought a prison sentence would not bring Klein back.

He said after reviewing the tape he thought anyone could have struck Klein at the uncontrolled intersection, noting that Jones was not under the influence and attempted to help Klein and speak with law enforcement before he left the scene.

Donnelly said Jones did not intend to hurt Klein, noting his belief that Jones would be willing to work with his probation officer, if he was placed on probation.

Jones admitted in May to driving the Ford Ranger extended cab that struck Klein as she crossed the road, noting he did not see her before the pickup struck her. He admitted to having a good suspicion that he struck her and to not engaging law enforcement at the scene before driving back to his home.

Jones said prior to his sentencing that he wished he could bring Klein back to life, noting his struggle to find comforting words to address the situation.

“I fail to find those words,” he said.

Jones then asked for forgiveness.

Jones said in May that after going back home, he checked the status of the crash online and admitted to not contacting law enforcement. He also admitted to returning to Motor Inn for work the next day before being arrested.

Freeborn County Assistant Attorney David Walker read a letter from Klein’s family member Jessica Klein, that said it was impossible to express how difficult the situation has been on the family and wished for peace for everyone involved in the crash — including Jones.

Walker said though the presumptive sentence was more than seven years in prison, a nearly five-year sentence was appropriate because Jones was not intoxicated and initially attempted to render aid to Klein.

He said though he did not deny Jones feels remorse, he questioned why Jones returned home after the crash, stayed home, then went to work the next day without reporting to law enforcement.

Taylor McCullough, a relative of Klein’s, spoke of the positive things she brought to his life and the pain he has felt from her death, and asked Jones receive the maximum 10-year sentence.

In sentencing, Judge Steven Schwab said he did not agree with a probation sentence because of Jones being ruled unamenable twice to probation in the past.

He said the departure from the presumptive sentence was appropriate because Jones did not flee the scene immediately, was not under the influence and the crash was at an uncontrolled intersection.

After sentencing, Walker described the sentence as fair.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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