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DNR report: Weston woman was driver in alcohol-fueled UTV crash that left 1 dead

in Breaking News/Sirens

By Shereen Siewert, Wausau Pilot and Review

Investigative reports and crash reconstruction data conclude a Weston woman was intoxicated and behind the wheel of a UTV that crashed in August, killing 49-year-old Adam Rietz, of Athens.

Brenda Reiche, 47, has not been criminally charged connection with the Aug. 4 crash, which was investigated by the Department of Natural Resources, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department, and the Wisconsin State Patrol. Investigative reports were released just this week.

Reiche has repeatedly denied driving in the crash. But in their final reports DNR investigators now say the “physical evidence and movement of the occupants during the rollover indicate Reiche was the driver and Rietz was the passenger at the time of the crash,” according to the case report. Investigators also analyzed DNA taken from multiple areas both inside and outside the vehicle to help determine passenger placement, according to the file. The coroner’s report also concluded Rietz was the passenger and not the driver of the UTV.

A test of Reiche’s blood taken roughly 90 minutes after the crash showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.236 percent, but that level would have been higher at the time she was allegedly driving, officials said.

Witnesses called police at 7:53 p.m. on Aug. 4 to the crash, which happened on The Point Road East in the town of Nokomis. When first responders arrived, they discovered Rietz, who was partially ejected from the passenger side of the vehicle and partially pinned inside, dead at the scene, according to police report. Autopsy results show Rietz died of multiple blunt force injuries sustained in the crash.

According to the DNR report, Reiche allegedly drove the UTV northbound when she failed to negotiate a curve and traveled off the west side of the roadway and onto the west shoulder before veering back onto the roadway. Then, according to the report, Reiche overcorrected by steering left and entering the east ditch, tipping the vehicle passenger side first before becoming airborne and striking a tree with the engine hood and left front.

Investigators say Reiche was ejected through the driver’s side opening and came to rest about 30 feet north of the vehicle.

The report, which included extensive crash reconstruction data, calculated the speed of the UTV at the time of impact at between 47 and 55 mph. Investigators noted that heavy rain had fallen for about four hours leading up to the crash. The speed limit on the road is 55 mph.

Neither passenger was wearing a seat belt and there were no mechanical malfunctions that appeared to contribute to the crash, according to the DNR and Wisconsin State Patrol.

In a police interview shortly after the crash, Reiche told investigators she and Rietz had been at a golf tournament before stopping at a bar on Prairie Rapids Road in the town of Nokomis, where she had a few drinks. Reiche also told police the couple stopped to visit a relative before the crash.

During the interview, Reiche strongly denied driving and said she had told Rietz it was a “bad idea” to drive, according to the investigative report. Reiche refused a blood test, but a lab technician drew her blood at Sacred Heart Hospital in Rhinelander before Reiche was flown by medical helicopter to Aspirus in Wausau.

So far five citations have been filed in connection with the crash: operating a UTV while intoxicated, refusing to take an alcohol test, operating a UTV without each person wearing a seat belt, operating a UTV in a careless way, and operating a UTV with a prohibited alcohol concentration. Those citations were filed Oct. 3 and are still open cases in Oneida County.

Oneida County Capt. Tyler Young said investigators are relying on both statements and physical evidence that placed Reiche behind the wheel at the time of the crash.

Oneida County Sheriff’s Department officials, who handled the criminal investigation into the crash, is recommending charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle be filed against Reiche. That recommendation was forwarded to Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek in August.

Homicide by drunken driving carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in the Wisconsin Prison System and up to $100,000 in fines. Because of the complexity of the investigation into such cases, OWI homicide charges often take a year or more before they are officially filed.

Schiek has not said when he expects to make a final charging decision in the case. A pretrial conference on the citations issued to date has been set for July 23.

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