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Man in deadly Grand Forks flight from police gets at least 20 years in prison

Celso Garza

Celso Garza, the East Grand Forks man whose flight from police led to the death of two young adults and injuries to two others, will be serving at least 20 years in the state prison, a judge decided today.

Thomas H. Falck Jr., the assistant state's attorney involved in the case, said Garza pleaded guilty to five charges, two of homicide while fleeing police, two of assault while fleeing police and one of drunken driving. Garza was given credit for time served since June 5, the night he was taken in.

For each of the homicide charges, Garza got 20 years in prison, five of which were suspended. The two sentences will be served at the same time.

For each of the assault charges, he got 10 years in prison, five of which were suspended. The two sentences will also be served concurrently.

For the drunken driving charge, he was fined $250 and must undergo chemical dependency evaluation.

Garza had been pulled over by police June 5 and fled. At the corner of Columbia Road and 17th Avenue South, his 1995 Chevrolet Lumina broadsided a 2009 Pontiac G6 that had a green light as it was turning onto Columbia, authorities said.

Investigators who reconstructed the crash found that Garza was traveling 91 mph and the driver of the Pontiac, Katie Olson, was going 18 mph, Falck said in court Thursday.

Two passengers in the Pontiac, James Freestone, 21, and Tasha Brenno, 19, were killed. Katie Olson, the driver, and Michael Badurek, another passenger, were injured.

Tests found Garza had a blood-alcohol level of .23 percent. The state legal limit is .08 percent.

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