Tanner Kruckeberg

Kruckeberg

MANTORVILLE — A sentencing date has been set for a Dodge Center man who admitted to causing the crash that killed a Blooming Prairie elementary school teacher and her daughter last September.

Tanner Kruckeberg pleaded guilty earlier this month to single count of criminal vehicular homicide for operating his vehicle, a Hummer, in a “grossly negligent manner,” causing the crash that led to the death of Rachel Harberts and her 8-year-old daughter, Emerson, as well as the injury of Jaxon Harberts, age 12.

Kruckeberg pleaded guilty to the single charge earlier this month as part of a plea agreement reached with the prosecution. He will be sentenced at 2:30 p.m. November 6 in a Dodge County courtroom in Mantorville.

He was originally charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide — one count for the death of Rachel Harberts and another count for her daughter. The second count was dropped in exchange for his guilty plea.

Kruckeberg faced up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine for each count. But in addition to dropping one of the charges, prosecutors agreed to a prison sentence of 57 months (4 years and 9 months) with a stay of execution. He will be on probation for up to 10 years and will be required to spend 30 days in jail each year for up to five years, according to the documents filed at the time of his plea. The time he will spend in jail will be on the anniversary of the incident.

The guilty plea came on Sept. 5, just two days before the first anniversary of the crash that killed Rachel and Emerson Harberts. The crash occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Sept. 7, 2018, near the intersection of Highway 14 and Dodge County 3, just east of Claremont.

The Harberts, who lived in Dodge County, were on their way to school in Blooming Prairie — Rachel Harberts was a first-grade teacher, Jaxon a seventh grader and Emerson a third grader — when the crash occurred. According to the criminal complaint, Harberts’ car, a Mercury Milan, stopped on westbound Highway 14 in order to make a left turn when it was slammed into by Kruckeberg’s Hummer, which had its cruise control set at 60 mph, 5 mph higher than the speed limit at that section of the highway.

Kruckeberg told police at the time that he had been on his cellphone “speaking to a buddy” and, as the conversation came to an end, “looked down to manually hang up the phone” when the crash occurred, the complaint says.

But a subsequent search warrant of Kruckeberg’s phone showed he had been on the phone using an online banking application when the crash occurred.

Reach Managing Editor Jeffrey Jackson at 444-2371 or follow him on Twitter @OPPJeffrey.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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