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Park Rapids woman gets three years in head-on crash

Brenda Olson

A Park Rapids woman who injured another Park Rapids woman and her daughter last summer in a head-on collision on Highway 34 was sentenced to 36 months in prison Monday.

Brenda Lee Olson, 42, must spend at least two-thirds of that time behind bars. If she earns good time, she may spend the remaining year on supervised probation.

Olson's blood alcohol content was in excess of .22 percent July 1, 2009, when she veered into opposing traffic. The criminal complaint states she was driving without headlights at 10:30 p.m.

She struck a minivan driven by Betty Dunker, 60. Dunker, of Park Rapids, was hospitalized in Minneapolis for months and underwent at least "four or five surgeries," said Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne, asking for a harsher sentence.

Dunker's daughter, Lori Eischens, 28, was also injured and hospitalized in Park Rapids.

In sentencing Olson, Judge Paul Rasmussen rejected a defense plea to postpone the hearing so Olson could have knee surgery. Olson's ankle has been operated on and she walks with a pronounced limp.

"I'm asking for the upper range (in sentencing recommendations) based on the Pre-Sentence Investigation and her comments to the probation agent," Dearstyne said. "She said, 'That's why they call them accidents, because they just happen.' She sees herself as the victim."

Both Olson and Eischens wiped their eyes throughout the hearing. Eischens declined to give a victim's statement. Dearstyne said Dunker is still too incapacitated to attend the hearing.

"She has hospital bills in the neighborhood of $300,000," he told the court.

Olson will be ordered to pay restitution, but Dearstyne said he would try to get some of Dunker's medical bills reimbursed through the Minnesota Crime Victims Reparations Act.

Olson pled guilty to felony DWI and Criminal Vehicular Operation. Each sentence earned her a 36-month term but will be served concurrently. She will then spend five years on supervised release.

She has three prior qualifying impaired driving convictions that figured into sentencing, including a conviction for DWI in 2004 and two Implied Consent convictions the following year.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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