Richfield woman guilty of third degree murder and vehicular homicide in collision with public works truck

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hennepin County District Judge Paul Scoggin ruled that a Richfield woman failed to prove that her mental illness prevented her from knowing her actions were morally wrong when she slammed her car into a Bloomington Public Works truck, killing one and injuring another, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

In the criminal portion of her trial in September, Judge Scoggin found Marie Jessica Hall, 25, guilty of third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide, and operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. Although Hall was suffering from mental illness at the time of the crash, Judge Scoggin ruled Tuesday that she had the ability to understand right and wrong. Hall will be sentenced on Feb. 2 and faces a presumptive sentence of up to 150 months in prison.

According to the criminal complaint, Tyler Lenort, 38, and another City of Bloomington employee were clearing snow from the sidewalk on Jan. 28. They had parked their Ford F-350 pickup truck in the center lane of American Boulevard near Fifth Avenue South and had a left directional arrow at the rear of the truck to direct traffic around them. The two men had just returned to the cab at about 10:20 a.m. when Hall’s car smashed into the rear of the truck, causing it to spin around 180 degrees. The collision killed Lenort and his co-worker suffered a traumatic brain injury and skull and spinal fractures, court documents indicate.

In his ruling Tuesday, Judge Scoggin indicated it was a “close call,” but that while Hall has been hospitalized six times since 2011 because of mental illness, her actions before the crash indicate she knew right from wrong even as she intended to kill herself.

Specifically, Judge Scoggin pointed to the fact that Hall slowed at intersections to make sure there was no cross traffic before running red lights. She took two bottles of vodka from Sam’s Club, but threw cash into the air before leaving, indicating she knew it was wrong to just steal the liquor. Finally, while driving nearly 100 miles per hour on city streets, she managed to pass several cars going the same direction but at half her speed, indicating she did not want to harm people when she knew a vehicle was occupied. Judge Scoggin wrote that Hall did not “slam into another moving vehicle, she avoided them, choosing, at high speeds, to collide with the back end of this heavy truck.”