Tudahl convicted in vehicle homicide
Amy, Noah and Jaydin Dwyer were in St. Croix County District Court on Friday morning. Amy and Jaydin sat on the long wooden benches. Noah watched from his wheelchair.
The Dwyers were in Judge Needham's courtroom to hear Steven Daniel Tudahl, 26, current address of Woodville, answer to charges stemming from an accident in which all were involved. The accident put Noah, 5, in the wheelchair; he also wore a neck brace on Friday. A passenger in Tudahl's vehicle was killed.
Tudahl pleaded guilty to three charges against him, including felonies of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, and hit and run involving great bodily harm, and a misdemeanor count of causing great bodily harm by reckless driving. Six other charges were dropped in the plea agreement. The maximum penalty he faces for the three guilty pleas is 15 years, although the state requested a five-year maximum in prison.
"I don't have to follow that part of the agreement," Needham reminded Tudahl before his plea.
Sentencing will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 13.
Tudahl was involved in a two-car accident about 9 p.m., March 27 in the town of Cylon.
The criminal complaint said Tudahl's Ford Explorer crossed the center line at the intersection of Highway 63 and County Rd S and hit a Buick driven by Amy Dwyer.
Tudahl's passenger, Larissa Dawn Christensen, 27, Glenwood City, was thrown from the SUV into the ditch and died at the scene.
Her father made a statement to the court by phone.
In the Buick, Noah Dwyer, 5, suffered a severed spine and was paralyzed. Jaydin Dwyer, 3, suffered a broken leg and bruises to her face. Amy Dwyer was wearing a seat belt and the two children were in child car seats.
The complaint said a tow truck driver heard a man yelling from the Ford Explorer in the ditch but when deputies got to the vehicle there was no one inside. A sheriff's dog tracked Tudahl from the crash site and he was apprehended among the buildings at Precision Agriculture.
At the time of the incident, Tudahl allegedly told investigators he had been awake since 4:30 a.m. and had consumed three shots of brandy for a bad tooth. He also said a deer jumped in front of him and prior to the collision, according to the criminal complaint.
According to court records, his blood alcohol concentration was 0.04 percent, less than the 0.08 legal limit.
The accident led to nine charges against Tudahl, including felonies of bail jumping, homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle, hit and run involving death, two counts of reckless driving causing bodily harm and two counts of hit and run involving great bodily harm. Misdemeanors charges of reckless driving causing bodily harm and hit and run causing injury were also filed.
Tudahl had been free on bond, posted by his grandmother and step-grandfather. However, they requested to be removed from the bond on July 29. They also requested the cash bond they posted for Tudahl be revoked and returned to them.
Prosecuting attorney Kevin Gehler called for the bail to be revoked.
Tudahl's defense attorney Christopher Anderson told the court that Tudahl deserved to be free on bond, because he currently holds a full time job and takes care of his nearly 3-year-old son. Anderson also said another person was willing to sign for the property bond, but that the cash could not be provided.
Needham revoked Tudahl's bail due to the "serious and significant" penalties for the charges and he was taken to jail.