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Park Rapids woman enters plea in head-on collision

Brenda Olson

A tearful Park Rapids woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felony charges in connection with an alcohol-related crash near Akeley last summer that caused serious injuries to another Park Rapids woman and her daughter.

Brenda Lee Olson, 42, said she did not remember the circumstances leading up to the accident on Highway 34 July 1, 2009, that occurred just before 10:30 p.m., nor did she remember consuming alcohol prior to the accident.

The criminal complaint states Olson's eastbound Grand Prix crossed the centerline while she was driving without headlights and struck a westbound minivan head-on in its own lane.

The minivan was driven by Betty Dunker, 60, of Park Rapids, who sustained multiple fractures to her ankle and ribs. Dunker was airlifted to a Fargo hospital, and later transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.

Dunker's daughter, Lori Eischens, 28, was taken by ground ambulance to St. Joseph's Area Health Services in Park Rapids and treated for a fractured wrist.

Olson told Judge Paul Rasmussen she did not remember being taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's also, being tested for alcohol and having a .22 blood alcohol content after the crash.

"Would you agree there is a substantial likelihood a jury would convict you?" defense attorney Jennifer Nelson asked Olson before the defendant entered into the plea agreement that resulted in two additional felony charges being dismissed.

"I'm guilty anyway," said Olson.

She has three prior qualifying impaired driving convictions that will figure into sentencing May 24.

She was convicted of DWI in 2004 and had two Implied Consent convictions the following year.

Under the plea agreement, Olson pled guilty to one count of First Degree DWI and one count of Criminal Vehicular Homicide and Injury. Two other counts of DWI and Criminal Vehicular Operation were dismissed.

Lori Eischens was in the courtroom but declined Rasmussen's invitation to speak. She, too, was in tears.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne said both victims had been consulted in the plea deal, Dunker and Eischens, and agreed to it.

Olson also suffered injuries and limped into the courtroom with an ankle brace on.

"As I understand it, she has had surgery on her ankle," said Don Dearstyne.

Dunker is out of the hospital after a lengthy recuperation.

"I think she has some more surgeries to go yet," Dearstyne said.