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Paynesville man faces charges in teens’ death

LITCHFIELD -- A Paynesville man has been charged with two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the deaths of two teenagers in a motor vehicle crash Tuesday night near Litchfield.

LITCHFIELD - A Paynesville man has been charged with two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the deaths of two teenagers in a motor vehicle crash Tuesday night near Litchfield.
Benjamin Lee Tate, 27, made his first appearance Thursday in Meeker County District Court.
In additional to the two vehicular homicide counts, he is charged with criminal vehicular operation and second-degree driving while impaired, both gross misdemeanors.
Bail was set at $500,000 cash or bond for unconditional release and $250,000 cash or bond for conditional release. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Travis J. Monson, 19, and Zachary R. Rohbeck, 16, both of Watkins, died in the crash late Tuesday. A third person in the car, Kathleen J. Prestidge, 16, of Montrose, was injured and taken to Meeker Memorial Hospital in Litchfield.
According to a report from the Minnesota State Patrol, Tate was driving his 1998 Chevrolet pickup south on State Highway 24 and Monson was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Lumina north on the highway.
A passerby came upon the crash and called 911 at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the criminal complaint. The State Patrol responded to the crash and determined that the impact of the collision had been in the northbound lane. The driver of the car and a passenger in the back seat died at the scene.
Prestidge, who had been riding in the front passenger seat, and Tate were taken to Meeker Memorial Hospital.
Prestidge was treated for a laceration to her leg and severe bruising from the car’s airbags and seatbelt, according to the criminal complaint filed against Tate.
A trooper interviewing Tate said that he was unable to remember any details about the crash. The trooper also saw that Tate had bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on his breath, according to the complaint. Tate was unable to perform field sobriety tests, and a breath test indicated a blood-alcohol concentration higher than the legal limit. A blood sample has been submitted to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension laboratory for testing.
Tate was taken to the Meeker County Jail and was still in custody there Thursday.
According to the complaint, Tate has had two other impaired driving incidents in the past 10 years - a fourth-degree DWI charge in 2007 and a loss of his license related to impaired driving in 2009.
A funeral service for Rohrbeck is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Ostmark Lutheran Church of rural Watkins.
Monson’s funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the St. Anthony Catholic Church in Watkins.

Related Topics: PAYNESVILLE
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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