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Lake Park man sentenced in vehicular homicide case

An emotional sentencing hearing, filled with sobbing testimonials, ended with a ruling that will send a Lake Park man to prison for 48 months.

Jeremy Scott Nelson, 29, who was found guilty in March by a Becker County jury on three counts of criminal vehicular homicide, was sentenced Wednesday in Becker County District Court.

Nelson was convicted of driving negligently and under the influence of alcohol, causing an accident that took the life of 29-year-old Christopher Wade Carlson, of Lake Park, in the early morning hours of Aug. 17, 2008.

With the Bible in his hand, Nelson expressed his deepest apologies to the Carlson family and said he hasn't spoken to them because his attorneys advised him not to -- something that was portrayed as lack of remorse.

"I think about that night every day," he said. "... I can't express the terror and remorse that I felt after."

Defense Attorney Kenneth Kohler asked Judge Peter Irvine to consider downward departure in his sentencing.

But after a number of family and friends from opposite sides of the aisle testified on how the tragic accident affected their lives, Irvine said he wasn't departing.

A downward departure is only considered under substantial and compelling circumstances, he said.

On the defense side, let-ters were read describing Nelson's characteristics.

Amy Rosing read a letter from a Nelson family friend who's also a probation officer that suggested probation or local jail time for Nelson as opposed to prison.

He's a good person with strong ties to the community, the letter written by Johanna Jones stated.

"Jeremy Nelson is an honest to goodness young man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time," a letter read by Bonnie Erickson and written by Chris Erickson said.

But Carlson's family members said Nelson has a chance at a new beginning once he's out of prison. All they have are memories and pictures of a lost loved one.

The lives of both families have changed since the accident, numerous letters read at the sentencing hearing stated.

Nelson drove his Chevy pickup truck at a high rate of speed before colliding with Carlson on his ATV on County Road 1 at about 3 a.m. Irvine said the evidence showed no signs of braking and that Nelson continued pushing Carlson across the roadway until he was thrown from his ATV and died at the scene.

Nelson fled the scene minutes after the accident but said "I would not have left Chris if I didn't know help was on the way."

Carlson's mother, Venita Carlson, has been dealing with the loss of her son since.

"Jeremy, you think you've done nothing wrong, but why is my son dead?" she asked. "You have ripped my heart out just as you did to Chris."

Carlson's twins Noah and Gabrielle were 5 years old when they lost their father.

They sometimes ask their mom, Heidi Carlson: "Why can't we just build a ladder tall enough to reach up to him in heaven?" she said, sobbing.

"My heart aches every day for him and it makes me angry," she added. "I worry as a parent about what my kids are thinking."

Irvine said he has received numerous letters regarding the case. Some suggested Nelson didn't receive a fair trial.

But the evidence and the information submitted to the jury were legally appropriate, he said.

"It's probably hard to describe what this has done to your community," he told a courtroom full of Lake Park community members. "What was once a thriving community is now different as a result of the collision back in August."

Irvine told Nelson that once he's finished with his term, he will get a chance to start a new life.

"But first you have to take care of the business that got you here," Irvine said. "The conduct that you did that night does not justify departure."