Cousin charged in death of infant caused by backing over tent in Renville County
WILLMAR - Four-month-old Wyatt Sander of Redwood Falls was a cousin to the woman who is now charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide in his death.
Nicolle Marie Mercedes Prechel, 31, of Willmar, is accused of backing her van over the child and his mother around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday while they were in a tent at Renville County's Beaver Falls Park.
The Renville County Attorney's Office charged Prechel on Tuesday with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide, two counts of third-degree driving while impaired and one count of driving after suspension.
She is scheduled to make her first appearance in district court this morning in Olivia.
"Oh my God, I killed my cousin,'' Prechel is quoted in the criminal complaint as saying to a Renville County sheriff's deputy following the incident. She told the deputy that she had been distracted by her daughter while backing her van up and hit the gas instead of the brake.
She is a relative of the victim's father, Jacob Sander, 27.
The complaint states that Prechel was camping with, and in the camping site next to, the father and mother of the victim, Sander and Sheena Hinshaw, 21, of Redwood Falls.
Prechel allegedly had consumed the majority of a one-liter bottle of Southern Comfort and had smoked marijuana during the evening of July 4, the complaint states. It said she had a breath alcohol level of 0.17 when tested after the incident, or more than twice the legal limit.
According to the complaint, Prechel had been sleeping in her van when her 7-year-old child wanted to use the restroom. The defendant drove her to the restroom, then drove back and attempted to back her van into the camping site.
Sander had just exited the tent when Prechel allegedly backed the van over it. The mother and baby were trapped in the tent under the van and dragged about 14 feet until the van struck a pole and stopped. Sander saw his 4-month-old son roll out of the tent, while Hinshaw remained trapped in it.
Sander and Hinshaw drove with their child to the Redwood Falls Hospital in their own vehicle. Wyatt Sander was pronounced deceased by medical staff shortly after his arrival there.
Hinshaw suffered abrasions and contusions, but no fractures. She had significant pain and soreness and what appeared to be tread marks on her skin.
The complaint states that the defendant also drove with her child to the Redwood Falls Hospital but was stopped by a Renville County sheriff's deputy. He had noticed a broken taillight on her van, apparently from striking the campground pole.
The deputy noticed the smell of alcohol on the defendant and that she had bloodshot and watery eyes. He conducted a field sobriety and breath alcohol test in the field.
He placed Prechel under arrest and transported her to the Redwood County Law Enforcement Center. There, according to the complaint, Prechel again stated she had been driving the van at the time of the incident and admitted she did not have a valid driver's license. Her driver's license has been suspended since May 19, 2004, according to the complaint.