Kruckeberg pleads guilty in Harberts crash
Two days before the first anniversary of the Highway 14 crash that left a beloved school teacher and her daughter dead, Tanner Kruckeberg, 25, of Dodge Center pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide.
Kruckeberg admitted in a Dodge County courtroom in Mantorville last Thursday to being distracted long enough to rear end a vehicle which killed Rachel Harberts and her 8-year-old daughter, Emerson Harberts. Rachel was a elementary teacher in Blooming Prairie. Harberts son, Jaxon,12, suffered major life-threatening injuries as part of the crash and spent several weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester.
As part of the plea deal, it is recommended that Kruckeberg be given a stay of imposition, spend 30 days in jail for five years annually around the time of the anniversary of the crash, and be on probation for 10 years in exchange for a prison sentence of almost five years in prison, which is the sentencing guidelines for the criminal charge.
Kruckeberg will also be required to talk to youth classes about his story.
However, the judge will have the final say as to Kruckeberg’s sentence, which will be handed down later this fall. The judge can accept the plea deal or could come up with another sentence.
Special Assistant Dodge County Attorney Geoffrey A. Hjerleid explained that when people do things like driving distracted there are consequences for many people.
“It’s a reminder of how this type of criminal behavior impacts our communities every day,” Hjerleid said. “I think all of us are very, very much aware.”
Hjerleid also pointed to the new hands-free driving law as a way to send a message that using your phone while driving isn’t acceptable.
“The Legislature has now made us very much aware that you simply cannot operate a motor vehicle when you are using your cell phone. Just don’t do it. And unfortunately, it was a little too late in this case.”
Authorities allege Kruckeberg was using an online banking app at the time of the crash. He told investigators he was on his cell phone speaking to a buddy and when the call was complete, he looked down to manually hang up the call.
As part of the plea hearing, Kruckeberg was required to answer questions relating to the facts of the case and why he was pleading guilty.
One of the questions posed was to the effect of did you break hard before crashing into the Harberts vehicle.
A teary-eyed Kruckeberg answered, “No,” which is consistent with the Minnesota State Patrol reconstruction of the scene.
According to the Hjerleid, family members of the victims and first responders who were involved with the crash were consulted before the plea deal was reached.
Kruckeberg’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled at a later date.