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Drunk Driver In Fatal Crash Quoted Bible Verse In Her Defense, Charges Say

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Richfield woman quoted a Bible passage when asked why she was driving so fast before causing a crash that killed a Bloomington Public Works employee.

Marie Jessica Hall, 24, faces felony counts of third-degree murder, criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation in connection to the Jan. 28 fatal crash.

Authorities say Hall's SUV rear-ended a City of Bloomington Public Works truck that was stationary on the 400 block of American Boulevard East. There were two people inside the city truck at the time of the crash and they were performing snow removal in the area.

"Tragic is the only word, and it may be overused, but this is as tragic as it gets," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said.

According to the criminal complaint, Hall's Ford Explorer struck the victims' Ford F-350 pickup so hard that it spun the 8,400-pound pickup 180 degrees. It was determined that Hall's SUV was traveling at 80 miles per hour around the time of the impact.

"She was going fast enough to spin this big, huge pickup around 180 degrees," Freeman said.

One of the employees died of his injuries three days later. He was identified as Tyler Lenort, an equipment operator.

"I think the main thing we heard about Tyler was how much pride he took in his job," He loved working for the city of Bloomington," Bloomington City Manager Jamie Verbrugge said.

The other person in the truck, identified as Daryl Bittmann, is still in the hospital with serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury and bleeding on the brain.

When officers assisted Hall out of her vehicle, they could smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from her, the complaint said. A blood sample analysis is pending at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

According to the criminal complaint, Hall admitted she previously left her home distraught over events in her life. She said she stopped at a liquor store, grabbed bottles of vodka and drank an equivalent of 4 to 5 shots. Then, she said she traveled down American Boulevard at speeds around 100 mph.

When asked why she was driving so fast, she said she was driving as a way to "end all" and that she read in the Bible that "you must die by the flesh to get into heaven."

Hall, who also suffered injuries in the crash, is being held in the hospital on a mental health hold. So, the state requested a warrant for her arrest.

Bloomington City Manager Jamie Verbrugge said Lenort had been with the city for 15 years. Bittmann has worked with the city for more than 28 years.

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