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Eden Valley man, 51, pleads not guilty in crash that killed Norwegian judge

WILLMAR -- An Eden Valley man has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor speeding charges stemming from an Oct. 5 motor vehicle crash that killed a Norwegian appeals court judge and his companion.

Randall Marcum Twardy, 51, entered the not guilty pleas by mail and his Wednesday appearance in Kandiyohi County District Court was cancelled. His next appearance is March 22.

The judge, Jan Martin Flod, 63, died at the scene of the crash at County Roads 10 and 4 east of Spicer. His passenger and companion, Tove Sleppen, 51, died the next day at Hennepin County Medical Center.

According to the complaint against Twardy, deputies and medical personnel who arrived at the scene found that Flod was dead and that Sleppen had major head and chest trauma. They were in a Ford Focus car that was southbound on County Road 4. The car was struck by a Chevy Silverado pickup driven by Twardy westbound on County Road 10. Twardy was not transported by ambulance for medical attention.

Investigators removed the airbag control modules from both vehicles. The modules were analyzed by experts at the Minnesota State Patrol and determined that the Chevy driven by Twardy was traveling at 70 mph at 34 percent of throttle and that the brakes weren't applied before the crash. Analysis of the Ford's module determined that the driven by Flod car was going 44 mph four seconds before the crash and 40 mph at the crash.

The crash scene was mapped and the State Patrol reconstructionist determined that the pickup's speed was 65 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit on County Road 10 is 55 mph.

District Judge Donald M. Spilseth told the Tribune on the day of the crash that Flod was visiting from Norway and was on his way to Willmar to observe a hearing and watch the interpreters assisting in Spilseth's courtroom.

The judges became friends after Flod spent time observing trial court activities in Spilseth's courtroom in 2001. The observation was part of a sabbatical in which Flod studied the American court system.