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April 5 trial date set for driver in May 2018 fatal crash near Grove City, Minnesota

An April trial date has been set for a man charged with criminal vehicular homicide as the driver in a fatal crash in May 2018. The trial is scheduled to run from April 5 through April 9.

Blake Lee Ahlbrecht
Blake Lee Ahlbrecht

LITCHFIELD — An April 5 trial date is approaching for a man accused of criminal vehicular homicide for his alleged role in a May 4, 2018, crash near Grove City that killed one man and injured the driver of the other vehicle.

Blake Lee Ahlbrecht, 63, of Grove City , is accused of running a stop sign and hitting a semi on Minnesota Highway 4 north of Grove City the afternoon of May 4, 2018. He is accused of walking away from the scene of the crash.

A passenger in Ahlbrecht's vehicle, Steven Delmer Schmidt, 57, of Atwater, died in the crash. The driver of the semi was trapped inside his truck and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital with injuries.

Ahlbrecht faces four felonies in Meeker County District Court — two charges of criminal vehicular homicide, one for leaving the scene and another for driving negligently while impaired, and two charges of criminal vehicular operation, one for causing injuries while driving while impaired and one for causing injuries and leaving the scene. He also faces a misdemeanor open bottle charge.

Ahlbrecht was detained after the crash. He posted bond and was released May 24, 2018. Since then, delays have been caused due to scheduling issues, rulings on defense and prosecution motions and then scheduling problems during the pandemic. Several trials dates have been canceled and rescheduled.

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Currently, the trial is scheduled to last from April 5 through April 9.

According to court records, Ahlbrecht was driving a van with two friends in the car on Meeker County Road 16 approaching Minnesota Highway 4. Witnesses said the van went around a vehicle which was stopped at a stop sign and drove onto the highway into the path of the semi.

After the crash, Albrecht allegedly walked away from the scene. A Meeker County sheriff's deputy later found him crawling on his hands and knees in a cow pasture south of the intersection, according to court records.

Schmidt’s body was on the road, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The second passenger was uninjured. Open and unopened beer cans were allegedly found in and around the van.

The semi was on its side in the ditch, and its driver was pinned inside. He was airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital . The driver and witnesses said he had no time to brake before the van entered the road in front of him.

According to court records, Ahlbrecht failed all field sobriety tests, and his preliminary breath test was higher than 0.08 percent. A blood test about 2 1/2 hours later indicated a blood alcohol concentration of 0.09.

Click to read more about Crime and Courts .

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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