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Hector man pleads in fatal accident; parents of victims want accountability

OLIVIA -- One of Tim Baldwin's last conversations with his son Joshua was a discussion on justice with the son favoring ''an eye for an eye'' and the father speaking up for compassion.

"I've struggled every day to make sense of this,'' said Tim Baldwin as he spoke again for compassion Wednesday morning in a Renville County courtroom.

"I'm not looking for veng-eance,'' said Baldwin, of Montevideo. "I'm looking for accountability.''

Moments earlier, Douglas Sidney Folkens, 56, of Hector, offered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor charge of careless driving. In offering an Alford plea, Folkens acknowledges that a jury would likely find him guilty of the offense though he does not make any admission to the facts of the crime charged. It is recorded as a guilty plea.

Folkens was driving a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado pickup when he is alleged to have crossed over the center line on U.S. Highway 212 west of Sacred Heart and struck head on a westbound 1996 Ford Taurus around midnight on Oct. 20, 2009.

The accident took the life of Joshua Baldwin, age 20, of Montevideo, and severely injured two others. David Kriesel, the driver of the car, age 20, of Glenwood, has lost his vision as a result of the accident and has undergone multiple surgeries to repair injuries he suffered throughout his body. Passenger Haley Schwenk, 17, of Appleton, suffered multiple facial injuries and internal injuries and has undergone extensive medical care as well.

Baldwin was airlifted to the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he died Oct. 24 of a brain hemorrhage and his organs were harvested for others.

Folkens made no comments at the hearing. The family members of the accident victims agreed to a request by Folkens to meet with them privately at a later date. He has expressed a desire to personally apologize to them, according to Renville County Attorney David Torgelson.

Folkens escaped serious injury in the accident but has no memory of it. According to a report by the Minnesota State Patrol, Folkens told an investigating officer that he does not recall anything from the time he saw the Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant on the east side of that city until his airbag deployed west of Sacred Heart.

The investigating officer believes Folkens may have fallen asleep and crossed the center line, according to the criminal complaint. Evidence at the scene indicated that the driver of the Taurus had attempted to evade the pickup truck as it crossed the line.

Folkens told investigators he had a full night's sleep prior to the accident. He was headed home after helping with farm work that day, according to the reports.

Tim Baldwin told the court that were his son still alive, he would be finishing his final week of summer employment alongside of him in road construction before going back to college for his junior year. Baldwin said his son was a good student, spoke fluent French, and was a talented musician. He described him as someone who always had a smile on his face and a very strong sense of compassion for others.

"You killed a good man,'' said Tim Baldwin. "Not much more to say.''

Wendy Russell told the court that her first born and only son should not have lost his life due to an error in judgment and poor choice by the defendant. Russell said she believes Folkens should lose his driver's license for life.

She told the court she did not want to ask for a fine or detention, but a requirement that Folkens perform community service on behalf of Minnesotans for Safe Driving and make restitution to the victims.

District Judge Randall Slieter deferred sentencing to a later date, and expressed his own condolences to the family members of Joshua Baldwin. The other victims in the crash were not present at the hearing but will have an opportunity to provide impact statements prior to sentencing if they choose.

The court will also hold a separate hearing on restitution issues in the case.

The offense of careless driving carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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