Robert Tofstad pleads guilty to killing woman because his windshield was frosted over
Earlier this month, 21-year-old Robert Tofstad received an unusual sentence after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular homicide for running over and killing 85-year-old Ruth Brendel in February 2012 in Winona while driving with a frosted-over windshield.
While he's on probation for the next decade, Tofstad will spend 48 hours of the weekend closest to February 19 in jail in remembrance of Brendel's death.
The accident happened shortly before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning hours after Tofstad wrapped up a night of partying. Beers and pot were found on him and his blood alcohol clocked in at 0.014. Tofstad admitted to having "a few drinks" the night before.
According to a 2012 Star Tribune report, witnesses said they saw Tofstad driving down the street with his head out the window because his windshield was too covered with ice to see through. He told cops he never saw Brendel, a former Navy Medical Corps lieutenant and occupational therapist for handicapped children, jaywalking across the street from his right. She was on her way to church.
A report from WXOX TV details what happened immediately after the accident:
The elderly woman had just parked her car, and was crossing East Broadway Street to go to the 8 a.m. service at St. Martin's Lutheran Church. Brendel was trying to cross in the middle of the block instead of going to a crosswalk.
After it happened, Pastor Richard Moore rushed out to comfort her.
"We had a brief prayer together and then oddly enough Ruth said to me, you need to go in and have church Pastor, and there were other people there with her, I went in and had church."
Ruth's sudden death is a tragedy for all involved, but Pastor Moore says it's also a blessing.
"She was on her way to church," said Pastor Moore. "She believes in the resurrection, she believes in the forgiveness of sins through Jesus, we know that she is with the Lord now in heaven."
Brendel died later that day.
A Winona Daily News report details the legal aftermath and circumstances of Tofstad's sentencing:
As a result of the investigation, Tofstad was charged with criminal vehicular homicide, careless driving and underage drinking and driving. Tofstad, now 21, entered a plea of guilty in August to the homicide charge, and the remaining charges were dismissed. He was sentenced... to spend 60 days in the Winona County Jail and 10 years on probation, with the added provision that he spend 48 hours on the weekend closest to Feb. 19 in jail for the duration of his probation.
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