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Beet truck driver in fatal Wahpeton crash has previous conviction

Wahpeton 18-year-old Annie Gjesdal was taking nursing classes at North Dakota State College of Science.

Prosecutors in Richland County, N.D., will review investigative reports before deciding whether charges will be filed against a truck driver involved in a Tuesday crash that killed Annie Gjesdal, 18, of Wahpeton.

The truck driver, identified by the North Dakota Highway Patrol as Cathleen Mary Dean, 52, of Barney, N.D., has at least five convictions for driving after suspension of her license and a 1995 conviction in Clay County District Court for DWI.

Dean's current driver's license is valid, according to Ron McBeth, an assistant Richland County state's attorney.

McBeth said he checked into the status of her license after recognizing Dean's name as someone prosecuted in the past for driving with a suspended license.

Witnesses said Gjesdal, who graduated from Wahpeton High School last spring, was driving west on 16th Avenue in Wahpeton and was entering an intersection on a green light when her car collided with the semi truck Dean was using to haul sugar beets, which entered the intersection against a red light, said Sgt. Dave Wolf of the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

"What we're going to do is turn it (the case) over to the state's attorney in Richland County. They'll decide on any charges," Wolf said.

McBeth said a decision on charges will be made after reviewing reports.

According to the Highway Patrol, Dean was transporting beets from rural Barney to the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative near Wahpeton.

Chris DeVries, a company official, said Dean was not an employee of the company, but was hauling beets for one of the cooperative's growers.

The crash happened about 1:35 p.m. Tuesday at the intersection of 16th Avenue and Highway 210.

After the collision, Gjesdal's vehicle spun into a vehicle driven by 37-year-old Mary Motzko of Wahpeton, according to the Highway Patrol.

Dean and Motzko were taken to St. Francis Medical Center in Breckenridge, Minn., after the crash, according to the Highway Patrol.

A call to the hospital seeking information was not returned.

Gjesdal was remembered Wednesday in a memorial Web page called "In Loving Memory of Annie Gjesdal" on the social networking site Facebook.

One person left this entry:

"Words cannot express how much you will be missed. You have touched the lives of so many. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life."

Another entry, addressed to Gjesdal's mother, Brenda, stated, "My heart aches for your loss."

Sandi Roland, who supervised Gjesdal for her job as a concessions worker at various school events in Wahpeton, described Gjesdal as a "polite, sweet gal."

Roland said Gjesdal, who was taking nursing classes at North Dakota State College of Science, was loved by many.

"She was just one awesome young person," Roland said.

A phone number for Dean could not be found Wednesday.

Dean's driving convictions include a case stemming from 2003, in which she was charged in Richland County for having a fourth driving-after-suspension offense within a five-year period, according to McBeth.

He said Dean was convicted for another count of driving after suspension stemming from a January 2004 incident.

Clay County District Court records show a 1995 DWI conviction for Dean, who is also known by the name Cathleen Mary Cantrell, court records show.

Dave Olson
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