By Shereen Siewert
A 49-year-old Wausau woman who survived an August 2018 UTV crash that left one person dead was ordered on Thursday to stand trial on charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.
Police say Brenda Reiche was driving her Polaris UTV with a blood alcohol concentration nearly three times the legal limit when she crashed, overturning the vehicle and pinning 49-year-old Adam Rietz partially inside. Investigators say beer cans were scattered around the crashed UTV.
Rietz, of Athens, died at the scene. Reiche, who was ejected from the UTV, landed about 30 feet from the vehicle and suffered life threatening injuries.
The crash was reported just before 8 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2018 in the town of Nokomis.
Reiche has repeatedly denied driving the UTV in the crash, insisting that Rietz was behind the wheel. But crash reconstruction reports conclusively point to Reiche as the driver, based on multiple factors. The Wisconsin State Patrol, the Wisconsin Department of Resources and the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department participated in the investigation and ultimately forwarded recommended charges to the Oneida County District Attorney’s office.
Results of a blood test taken at a Rhinelander hospital showed Reiche’s blood alcohol concentration was .236 percent, according to court documents.
In an interview, Reiche told investigators she and Rietz were at a golf tournament before stopping at a tavern on Prairie Rapids Road. Reiche, who admitted to having a “few” mixed drinks, also told police the couple stopped at a relative’s house shortly before the crash.
Crash reconstruction reports indicate Reiche was driving the UTV northbound when she failed to negotiate a curve on a rain-soaked road, veering in to the ditch and then overcorrecting, which tipped the UTV onto its passenger side before the vehicle went briefly airborne and struck a tree head on, according to the criminal complaint.
Reiche’s speed was estimated at between 47 and 55 mph at the time of the crash, reports indicate. Neither Reiche nor Rietz wore a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Five citations have also been filed against Reiche 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.
On Thursday, Reiche waived her right to a preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. But Circuit Judge Michael Bloom ruled there is enough evidence to move ahead with a trial.
Reiche, who is free on a $10,000 signature bond, is due in court April 14 for a pretrial conference. She is not permitted to consume alcohol and must stay away from taverns as a requirement of her bond.