St. Louis Park man pleads guilty to impaired driving that killed store owner


A St. Louis Park man pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of hardware store owner James Hance, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Jorge Juarez, 20, pleaded guilty Monday as jury selection was to begin on his trial. Sentencing was set for Dec. 19. The county attorney’s office will be asking for a prison sentence of 57 months.

According to the criminal complaint, a woman told police that she was driving west on Minnetonka Boulevard in St. Louis Park about 9:40 p.m. on April 15 when a sports utility vehicle heading east drifted into her lane and she had to swerve to avoid hitting it. She looked in her rear view mirror and saw the SUV go completely into the westbound lane and smash into a car near Ensign Avenue.

Hance was the driver of that car and had to be removed by emergency personnel and taken to the hospital, where he died less than four hours later. He was the owner of Hance Ace Hardware in Hopkins.

In court Monday, Juarez admitted he smoked marijuana and took Xanax, a depressant, while at a friend’s house before getting into his vehicle. At the time of the crash, he was texting and driving nearly 20 miles per hour faster than the 30 miles-per-hour speed limit, Juarez admitted in court.