A Harris woman has pleaded not guilty to charges she allegedly contributed to the death of a Cambridge woman in a June 2019 crash.
Jackie Lynn Pedersen, 39, of Harris, made her first appearance in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge on Oct. 23, 2020, on charges of gross misdemeanor reckless driving and misdemeanor careless driving. On May 26, 2021, an omnibus hearing was held where Pedersen entered not guilty pleas to both charges. A settlement conference is scheduled for July 21; if a settlement isn’t reached, a jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 2.
According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Judith Leanna Grell, 68, of Cambridge, was a passenger in a Kia Sedona traveling westbound on Highway 95 making a left turn to go southbound on Flanders Street when the Sedona was struck by a 2009 Chevrolet Impala in the intersection. The force of the crash caused the Sedona to roll and land on its roof. Grell was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Impala, identified as Pedersen, was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. According to the State Patrol, the speed of the Impala, traveling up to 23 mph over the posted speed limit, was the primary contributing factor to the crash.
According to the criminal complaint
On June 18, 2019, at 2:50 p.m., multiple law enforcement officers from the Minnesota State Patrol, Isanti County Sheriff’s Department and the Cambridge Police Department were dispatched to a crash at Highway 95 and Flanders Street in Cambridge.
Cambridge Police Sgt. Shawn Machin observed a 2009 Chevrolet Impala sitting in the eastbound lane on Highway 95 with significant front-end damage. Located next to the Chevrolet Impala was a Kia Sedona lying on its roof.
Machin exited his squad car and did not see anyone sitting inside of the Chevrolet Impala. As he approached the Sedona, he observed Gary Grell, the driver of the Sedona, leaning by the window with a deep cut along the forearm. When Machin spoke with Gary Grell, he stated his passenger, his wife Judith Grell, was coherent and alert. Machin noted the passenger side of the Sedona was severely dented and damaged and special equipment would be needed to allow access to Judith Grell. Machin then moved around to the driver’s side of the Sedona where he observed Gary Grell hanging upside down by his seatbelt.
When Machin asked Gary Grell if he was OK, he stated he was, but his wife needed help. Machin observed Judith Grell hanging upside down from her seatbelt in the front passenger seat. When he tried to speak with her, she did not reply. Gary Grell stated she may be unconscious. Machin then left the location and went back around to the passenger side of the vehicle and spoke with Cambridge Police Officer Jenni Caulk, who was concerned that Judith Grell may have died. Machin went back around to the driver’s side of the vehicle and noted that Gary Grell was still able to communicate with him and was not in distress, and a decision was made to leave him in the vehicle until EMS could arrive to stabilize his neck prior to cutting him out of the seatbelt.
EMS and the Cambridge Fire Department arrived on the scene and were able to remove Gary Grell from the vehicle. Cambridge Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Will Pennings was able to use tools to open the door to the passenger’s side of the vehicle and noted at this point that Judith Grell was completely unresponsive. Pennings requested and received permission from Allina Medical to remove Judith Grell from the vehicle due to concerns about her having a compromised airway. She was then pulled out of the vehicle and placed on a back board with Allina personnel checking on her but determining she was deceased.
Minnesota State Patrol arrived on scene to investigate the crash along with requesting a reconstructionist from the Minnesota State Patrol. Trooper Joseph Wressell of the Minnesota State Patrol, upon arrival, observed the Sedona upside down, severely damaged, with the Chevrolet Impala in the intersection with heavy front end damage, with debris, tire marks and gouges in the area of the crash.
Crash reconstructionist Sgt. Daniel Dixon of the Minnesota State Patrol, along with Trooper Paul Henstein and Trooper Andrew Arredondo, arrived to assist with the investigation. Arredondo was requested to go to the Cambridge Medical Center to try to obtain statements from Pedersen and Gary Grell. Pedersen had given consent to obtain the airbag control module of her vehicle, and a search warrant was obtained for the information from Gary Grell’s vehicle. Wressell stayed on the scene to assist Dixon with mapping and the obtaining of field measurements. Both vehicles were towed for investigative hold. The medical examiner arrived on scene to take jurisdiction of the body of Judith Grell.
Henstein noted the Sedona, driven by Gary Grell, was traveling westbound on Highway 95 making a left turn to go southbound onto Flanders Street, and the Impala, driven by Pedersen, was traveling eastbound on Highway 95 in the right lane, with both vehicles entering the intersection and colliding in a T-bone type of manner. Crash reconstruction was conducted by Dixon with Wressell assisting. Dixon noted in the crash reconstruction that weather and road conditions were not a factor in the crash, there were no mechanical defects that would have contributed to the crash, and there had been reported visual obstruction from a left turning eastbound vehicle that could not be verified. However, no other visual obstructions were observed or noted. No known medical conditions were noted that would have contributed to the crash, and there was no suspicion of impairment concerning either driver.
Dixon calculated the Chevrolet Impala was traveling up to 23 mph over the posted speed limit prior to the impact and there was evidence the signal lights for the Sedona and Impala were changing from green to yellow and eventually to red. When Dixon slowed the Impala down to the posted speed limit, the Impala would have been over 56 feet from impact and likely need to stop for a red signal if the signal lights were changing. If the Impala did not stop, it still would have been far enough from the impact that the Sedona should have been able to clear the intersection of the crash, and had there been a crash there would have been possibly less severe injuries with a less severe crash.
Dixon noted there was information that both drivers may not have been able to see each other due to traffic stopped in the eastbound left turn lane; however, there was no evidence provided that could neither confirm nor deny this possible visual obstruction. If the Impala was traveling slower, the two drivers would have had more time to react to each other if there had been a visual obstruction, and even though the Impala was speeding, the driver of Sedona needed to ensure no hazards existed when attempting to make a left turn with possibly oncoming traffic.
Dixon noted the primary contributing factor to the crash was the speed of the Impala driven by Pedersen, with the secondary contributing factor for the crash being the Sedona, driven by Gary Grell, turning left into the path of the Impala. Crash sequence noted the Impala was traveling eastbound on Highway 95 with the intent to continue eastbound through the intersection with Flanders Street. The Sedona was traveling westbound on Highway 95 with the intent to turn left and continue southbound on Flanders Street with the Impala striking the passenger side of the Sedona in the intersection. After the Impala struck the passenger side of the Sedona, the Impala rotated clockwise and came to rest just east of the impact location, with the Sedona changing direction to the southeast and rotating clockwise completing a half roll, driver’s-side leading, and coming to rest on the roof. The speed analysis indicated pursuant to Dixon that the impact speed range for the Sedona was between 16 and 23 mph, and the calculated impact speed of the Chevrolet Impala would be between 49 and 58 mph.