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Alleged drunken driver charged with criminal vehicular homicide in crash that took Willmar woman's life

Daniel Lohse, 18, of Willmar, was arraigned Tuesday in Kandiyohi County District Court on felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation in the July 24 crash that took the life of Dalia Zuniga, 52, of Willmar, and injured her passenger.

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Daniel Lohse
Contributed / Kandiyohi County Jail
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WILLMAR — Daniel Lohse, 18, of Willmar, was arraigned Tuesday in District Court in Kandiyohi County on felony charges of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation for the July 24 collision west of New London that took the life of Dalia Zuniga, 52, of Willmar.

Lohse is being held in the Kandiyohi County Jail on the two felony charges, along with lesser charges of driving while impaired and underage drinking.

The court set bail Tuesday at $250,000 without conditions and $125,000 with conditions including not using alcohol or drugs and not driving.

According to the criminal complaint, Lohse told emergency responders at the accident scene that he was “wasted" after drinking at a house party.

He also told a Minnesota State Patrol trooper that he had ingested delta-8 along with the alcohol. Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is legal in Minnesota.

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Lohse was driving a 2009 GMC Sierra southbound on Highway 71 in Lake Andrew Township at 2:32 a.m. Sunday and struck a northbound 2015 Chevrolet Malibu driven by Zuniga. She had no pulse when rescuers reached her and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her passenger, Sergio Vicente Valador Venzor, 31, of Belgrade, suffered abdominal and other injuries and was transported to CentraCare — Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar. He told law officers that he remembered seeing a pickup coming at them in their lane and Zuniga swerving to the right in an attempt to avoid it, according to the criminal complaint.

Venzor said Zuniga was a friend and was giving him a ride home to Belgrade from a bar in Spicer. He said he had been drinking, and Zuniga had not been drinking.

The State Patrol accident reconstruction of the accident found that the placement of the vehicles was consistent with the GMC pickup hitting the Malibu sedan head-on.

A 52-year-old Willmar woman died early Sunday after two vehicles collided on U.S. Highway 71 west of New London. A passenger in the woman's car and the driver of the other vehicle were injured and taken to area hospitals.

According to the complaint, rescuers reported that Lohse smelled of alcohol. He stated he had been drinking at a house party in New London, but did not know how much he had consumed.

He was airlifted to CentraCare — St. Cloud Hospital for his injuries.

A sheriff's deputy found a jar containing what appeared to be marijuana buds in Lohse's pickup truck. Lohse admitted they belonged to him but denied using marijuana before the crash, according to the criminal allegations.

A Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office deputy responding to the scene described the smell of alcohol from the defendant at the accident scene as “overwhelming.”

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The cause of death for Zuniga was listed as multiple blunt force injuries. She was wearing a seat belt and her airbag had deployed.

A blood sample was taken from Lohse and sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Lohse is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 3.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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