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Willmar, Minn., man pleads not guilty to hit-and-run charges

WILLMAR -- Francisco Carrillo Santana, 48, of Willmar, pleaded not guilty Thursday to four gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor charges stemming from a hit-and-run crash Memorial Day that left two people injured in Willmar.

Appearing before District Judge Donald M. Spilseth, Santana entered the pleas to charges of failing to stop for an accident, failing to notify police, criminal vehicular operation and reckless driving. His next appearance, a plea hearing, is scheduled for Oct. 1.

According to the complaint, Willmar police were called around 4:45 p.m. May 28 to a motor vehicle crash at First Street and Litchfield Avenue. The arriving officer found one vehicle with a smashed front end. The passenger, Ruth Norsten, was being treated by ambulance personnel and was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital for further treatment of her injuries.

The driver of the vehicle, Lyndon Norsten, reported a vehicle hit theirs and then left. He was also transported to Rice Hospital for treatment of injuries.

Multiple witnesses reported that a dark blue or black sport utility vehicle had driven away from the crash at a high rate of speed.

Officers followed a trail of leaking fluids through the downtown area before the trail ended at Fifth Street Southwest.

The next day, a downtown business supplied a surveillance image of the suspected vehicle, which had driven through its parking lot after the crash. The photo and information from citizens led to Santana's residence in southwest Willmar. Information from an auto salvage company and an insurance agent included that Santana had reported he had been involved in a hit-and-run crash along U.S. Highway 71.

Santana was interviewed and allegedly admitted to being involved in the crash.

He said he had gotten food from McDonald's and was heading northbound on First Street when it happened. He claimed he had a diabetic reaction and didn't remember much but came to a few blocks later. He claimed he stopped in a nearby parking lot to wait for police.

He did acknowledge he has three prior arrests for driving while impaired, but claimed he was not drinking at the time of the crash. He also admitted to making the false report to his insurance company.

Court records show Santana has drunken driving convictions in October 2006, February 2007 and July 2010.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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