Robert Tofstad pleads guilty to killing woman because his windshield was frosted over

Tofstad.jpg
Robert Tofstad
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.

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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.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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42 comments
dreamangel333
dreamangel333

True he is an idiot for not being patient and defrosting his windows BUT he was drunk while driving. My question is....why was this elderly woman jay walking? Couldn't she hear/see him coming? Why not get out of the way? I think this is human error on BOTH parties. Next time be aware of your surroundings and listen listen listen....DIDN'T YOUR PARENTS TEACH YOU TO LOOK BOTH WAYS WHEN CROSSING THE STREET? Geesh!

kenwith
kenwith

Ingesting alcohol is a conscious choice. This was not an accident. It was a crash.  An accident is something that happens to sober drivers who are paying attention to their driving. The distinction is important to those of us who have been hit by drunk drivers. Just wait till they legalize pot.

Sarah Hippe Larson
Sarah Hippe Larson

Bottom line - NO on should drive with obstructed views, no matter what it is. But this poor guy is paying for a mistake and he will have to live the rest of his life knowing he accidentally killed someone ... I think that's a pretty stiff sentence in it's own right.

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

why is it terrible? should we hold him down and poke needles in his eyes? it's really unfortunate but jesus christ, everyone is out for blood these days. i guess i'm the only person who has ever done something stupid or made a bad judgment and am grateful to have had the opportunity to get past it. this is exactly the reason there is a law against jaywalking. he will feel bad about this for the rest of his life. should his life also be destroyed?

Alirox
Alirox

Throw the fuckin' pastor in jail too.

Lenny Grossman
Lenny Grossman

Serious time for Pot possession...Slap on the wrist for Killing someone...WTF!

Kevin Hurley
Kevin Hurley

You do it your way, I'm comfy with mine, thanks much.

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

I like how you have no clue how to use the reply link.

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

609.21 CRIMINAL VEHICULAR HOMICIDE AND INJURY. Subdivision 1.Criminal vehicular homicide or operation; crime described. A person is guilty of criminal vehicular homicide or operation and may be sentenced as provided in subdivision 1a, if the person causes injury to or the death of another as a result of operating a motor vehicle: (1) in a grossly negligent manner; I think we can agree, by definition of the law, that driving your car with your head out the window, while you can't see out the windshield is grossly negligent. Especially if he just took the extra 5-10 minutes to scrape his windshield, it would have been prevented. I don't think anyone would think that driving your car with your head out the window is safe.

Sue Fransen Way
Sue Fransen Way

Bad situation, all the way around, but an incredibly biased article. What does the fact that she was going to church have to do with this accident happening? If he had been going to church and hit an 85 year old person who had a drink or two last night, would it have changed the outcome? Scrape your damn windows in the winter...

Lee Thostenson
Lee Thostenson

Yeah... actually I would. It was an ACCIDENT. Just because something terrible happened doesn't mean I'd be out for blood to ruin someone else's life. He was probably defrosting it at the time and in a hurry. A poor decision, yes. But not worth of the title "homicide" in my opinion. Also, the lady was jaywalking, which is also ILLEGAL, and about as petty of a crime as not fully clearing your windshield.

AngelAssassin
AngelAssassin

and the other question i don't see in this article...? he admitted to have been drinking the night before? he was nineteen... HOW DID HE GET THE ALCOHOL? Who sold it to him, or who bought it for him? Why are they not also not being charged in this crime!?!?

Kevin Hurley
Kevin Hurley

I'm glad you took a few seconds to Google that up to be absolutely sure before you typed that...

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

Look it up, Killing is the act of causing death, deliberate or NOT. The fact is, he killed her. He may not have intended to, but he did.

Emily Buss
Emily Buss

It is. It's violating the windshield obstruction statute. Call it in if you're concerned.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

All summer I've been dodging drivers who were clearly texting or otherwise distracted by their phones. Now as we get into winter, we'll get to dodge drivers who can't see out their fogged, iced, or snow-covered windows while they text or surf the web on their phones, or can't stop on ice as they speed distractedly up to intersections.  

If we're going to set up our society so everyone has to drive a car, regardless of ability or inclination to do so, we need to enforce some basic rules.  Clearing your vehicle, maintaining an unobstructed view and watching where you're going while you drive are not unreasonable expectations.  If you violate them and kill somebody, you should be punished severely.  More severely than this.  Never mind the alcohol issue.  Just the heedless irresponsibility and its deadly consequence should be severely punished.  Really, if our society offered any alternatives, this guy shouldn't be allowed to use a car for a very long time.  But we don't offer alternatives, which is why we treat driving safety with the least seriousness of any major developed nation.

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

You really think that 60 days is too much for killing someone? I don't think that this was really just an accident. If he just took the 5-10 minutes to scrape the windshield, this probably wouldn't have happened. It's ILLEGAL to have a cracked windshield, as it could impair the drivers line of sight. So, what makes a whole frosted window any different? He made the CONSCIOUS choice to drive with his head out the window and not scrape his windshield. He now has to pay for his decision. 60 days is too light in my opinion. If it was your Grandmother who was killed, I don't think you would be saying the things that you are saying...

Kevin Hurley
Kevin Hurley

I like how you used all caps on KILLING... Puts the emphasis, almost as though he went out of his way to kill that woman... Oh wait...

Christopher Ray Hunnicutt
Christopher Ray Hunnicutt

It's unfortunate that "news" writers intend to incriminate people with jargon like "clocked in" & "possession of marijuana," when in fact this poor fool simply chose the wrong day to be lazy about scraping his windshield, and/or was late for work, and this old woman paid the unfortunate price with her life. Furthermore, "she was on her way to church," and "her pastor comforted & prayed with her?" Her apparent devout religiousness has even less to do with the story than the drug possession that probably was a gram's worth, and the alcohol that was apparently non-existent. Unfortunate all-around, I'd say. And, yes, unique sentence.

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

60 days? That's it? You really think that's enough for KILLING someone, when if he could have taken the 5-10 minutes to clean off his windshield, it probably wouldn't have happened? He deserves more.

Nathan Hoffmann
Nathan Hoffmann

The guy deserves the sentence...just an unfortunate situation for all.

Kathy Drews
Kathy Drews

60 days in county jail and 10 years probation. just sickening.

Nathan Hoffmann
Nathan Hoffmann

I wipe my windshield....but you know for a fact (especially living here) that at least once in your life you've driven down the road peeping through that little hole you've created in your frosted and condensation laden windshield because you're in a hurry (or for whatever reason).

Todd Miller
Todd Miller

Strangely: this COULD be true. Here in downtown Mpls. I see people pulling away from their parking places without brushing snow from their rear or side windows all the time. And sometimes, with frost so dense on their windshields that the driver can not be seen. This should be totally illegal.

Rickardo Ehman
Rickardo Ehman

"...someone who made a foolish mistake that many of us would make" I clean off my windshield every time. Because I like to see where I'm going and I'm not an asshole.

Lee Thostenson
Lee Thostenson

Vehicular Homicide for an accident? Seems like an honest mistake. It's really too bad a person died but this just seems like an unfortunate situation.

Aaron Rupar
Aaron Rupar

He was charged with underage drinking and driving.

Nathan Hoffmann
Nathan Hoffmann

"His blood alcohol clocked in at 0.014". Why mention that then? You can "clock in" at 0.014 after taking a swig of mouthwash. Seems this story is looking to vilify someone who made a foolish mistake that many of us would make, but paid a much higher price than most.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@kenwith 

Really?  At point zero one???  Only 12.5% of the legal limit?

A standard dose of NyQuil will get you drunker than that.

Some fancy chocolates will get you drunker than that.

I think you're reaching here.

ludwitr
ludwitr

@Sarah Hippe Larson Tell that to the people who lost a grandmother and their OT...

_Joe_
_Joe_

@Keith Morioka  

..." he apparently said to no one in particular.


Alirox
Alirox

"Homicide' simply means another person was directly or indirectly responsible for the death, whether laws were broken or not.

dann.dobson
dann.dobson

@Lee Thostenson is an idiot. Tofstad was an underage drinker, who mowed down an old woman, because he couldn't take the time to clear his windshield. He got a slap on the wrist. If I had prosecuted this case I would have pushed for at least a year in jail. 

MicheleBachmann
MicheleBachmann topcommenter

@AngelAssassin Jeez you are a bloodthirsty creep.   The driver and the jaywalker were being stupid.   The driver was being more stupid.   It's sad someone died.  Punish the driver.  Don't ruin his life forever.  

AngelAssassin
AngelAssassin

@Todd Miller IT IS ILLEGAL... you must maintain a clear view at all times... same reason you can get pulled over for having stuff hanging from your rear-view mirror!!! it is gross negligence!!!

AngelAssassin
AngelAssassin

@Nathan Hoffmann  First, his Blood Alcohol level was noted due to the fact he was underage at the time, and any amount of alcohol in your system is against the law.

Second, if you think this was a foolish mistake, and that it is ok to drive with your windows coated in ice, then you sir, should not be driving... it is negligence, plain and simple...


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