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Woman who killed friend accused of driving drunk again

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A Duluth woman who killed a passenger while driving drunk six years ago is accused of injuring another passenger in an accident while driving with an alcohol concentration three times the legal limit.

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Heather Lyn LaPrairie, 35, is charged with two counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in bodily harm, two counts of driving while impaired and of violating the open bottle law in the Oct. 12 accident on Interstate 35 in Duluth. Her passenger suffered injuries to her mouth, teeth and chin.

LaPrairie is scheduled to make her first court appearance on the charges next Thursday.

In 2002, LaPrairie pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular operation resulting in the death of Anne Smith, who was referred to in that criminal complaint as the defendant's "close friend.''

In that accident, LaPrairie was driving drunk on Brevator Road. The complaint alleges that her vehicle left the roadway, went airborne, cleared a 12-foot high tree, struck the ground and rolled over. When asked by an investigator what caused the accident, LaPrairie said she had no recollection. She said she had at least eight beers. There was evidence that she also had consumed marijuana.

Smith was dead at the scene. LaPrairie sustained serious injuries and was transported by helicopter to a hospital. She received a 68-month prison sentence, stayed for five years probation. The sentence was later imposed when LaPrairie violated the conditions of her probation.

After serving time at the Shakopee state prison for women, LaPrairie violated parole in connection with the most recent act. She was sent back to the Shakopee prison on Nov. 5.

Tom Roy, executive director of the Arrowhead Regional Corrections probation department, spoke in general terms about those who continue to drive drunk after being convicted of the crime and hurting others.

"There are those cases where they've created such harm it becomes a life-changing event for them,'' he said of those who quit their addictive behavior. "The other side of the coin is that some people will never be able to deal with their addiction, or we have little success with them.''

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