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Somerset man charged in vehicle homicide

A Somerset man has been charged with five felony counts in connection with the death of two people in a traffic accident June 1.

Sheriff Dennis Hillstead said Monday that Austin Richard Pederson, 18, was being held in Washington County, Minn., Jail. Two counts each of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle and one count of operating with a controlled substance were filed against Pederson Sept. 18 in St. Croix County.

The accident occurred about 7:30 p.m. on County C near 100th Street in the town of Star Prairie. Passengers Daishonna Payne, 17, and Alan Alwin, 26, both of Somerset, were thrown from the car and died as a result of injuries in the single-vehicle crash. Pederson and a passenger, Edgar Rodriguez, 17, Somerset, were injured and taken to a hospital.

A sample of Pederson's blood was analyzed by the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and indicated the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a restricted substance contained in marijuana.

The sheriff said Pederson was traveling east on County C when he apparently lost control on a curve and his 1995 Volkswagen slid into a ditch and rolled several times. Payne and Alwin were backseat passengers. No one in the car was wearing a seat belt. A reconstruction of the accident by the Wisconsin State Patrol determined Pederson was traveling between 77 and 84 mph when he lost control. The speed limit on County C is 55 mph.