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Judge orders Minnesota woman to visit grave of motorist she killed while distracted by cellphone

Minneapolis Star Tribune logo Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 days ago By Paul Walsh, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
a close up of a pan on a table: Judge orders Minnesota woman to visit grave of motorist she killed while distracted by cellphone. © Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS Judge orders Minnesota woman to visit grave of motorist she killed while distracted by cellphone.

MINNEAPOLIS — Visiting the church cemetery grave of the woman she killed in a distracted driving crash is part of a Dakota County judge’s sentence for a Minnesota woman.

Lori J. Hoefs, 57, of Oronoco, was sentenced Friday in connection with the collision in Hampton Township in 2016 that killed 78-year-old Brenda K. Travis of Rochester and seriously injured her brother, Glen Travis.

Along with making two visits to the Bear Creek Lutheran Church cemetery northeast of Grand Meadow, Minn., where Travis was laid to rest, Hoefs was sentenced by Judge Jerome Abrams to six months in jail and put on probation for two years. If she qualifies, Hoefs can serve part of that time on work release.

She also must perform 30 hours of community service, where she is required to speak about distracted driving, attend a driving improvement clinic and pay $1,429 in fines and fees.

Hoefs was charged in June 2018 with felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation. Her plea agreement called for those charges, which likely would have resulted in prison time upon conviction, to be dismissed in exchange for admitting to the lower-level counts.

Glen Travis, who suffered rib fractures and a broken pelvis, told the Star Tribune last fall that terms of the plea deal were satisfactory to the family. He said he didn’t want the sentence to cost Hoefs her license as a registered nurse, which she has held for more than 35 years and continues to hold.

He did add, however, “We do wonder why she didn’t assist” his sister at the crash scene, “but I guess she was in total shock.”

Hoefs told authorities immediately after the crash that she had the phone on speakerphone but was holding it while talking to a friend as she drove west on County Road 88 into the intersection at Hwy. 56, the criminal complaint read.

She passed a sign warning her of the stop sign ahead at the intersection and drove over pavement painted with the words “STOP AHEAD,” the complaint added. Her SUV struck the passenger side of the Travis’ car.

Brenda Travis received an education degree from St. Olaf College in Northfield and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota before embarking on a teaching career that lasted decades and covered several continents.

After teaching high school for two years in Morgan, Minn., Travis taught business for 32 years through the Department of Defense Overseas Dependent Schools. In that role, she worked in Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Japan and the Philippines.

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