(KMSP) - A family is demanding justice nearly a year after Katie Burkey of Nowthen, Minnesota was killed in a crash on Highway 169 in New Hope.
While the semi truck driver accused of causing the crash will not face felony charges, a witness claims she saw him driving erratically before he hit 22-year-old Burkey.
The Minnesota State Patrol investigation also discovered the trucker's rig was thousands of pounds overweight.
But the Hennepin County Attorney's Office concluded his behavior didn't reach the threshold known as "gross negligence" and thus declined to press felony charges.
Katie's mother Karen Altman said her home and office feel empty without her daughter, a star-student athlete who had just graduated from the University of Minnesota and joined her mom’s company not long before she was killed.
“My daughter - my firstborn - she worked for me. We talked every day. We texted everyday… a significant loss,” said her mother Karen Altman. “The voice of happiness… you could hear her down the hallway just loud, giggling and happy."
Katie’s sister Kassie Burkey said she misses her every day.
“I think about her every day, multiple times per day,” she said.
On Sept. 6, 2017, Katie was sitting in traffic on Highway 169 when a semi side dumper plowed into her Chevy Cruze at highway speed.
For months, the state patrol investigated as Katie’s loved one’s waited for justice.
“It still doesn’t make any sense,” Altman said.
But recently, the family received word that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge trucker Jon Lindeman with a felony.
Prosecutors explained that his behavior did not meet the level of what’s considered gross negligence.
But at least one witness on Highway 169 that evening disagrees.
“It was a long time ago, but that’s what I remember,” said witness Alexa Vicioso. “The biggest thing is the fact that he was everywhere. I thought he was intoxicated.”
Vicioso recalled watching the driver in the moments before the crash and was the first one to tend to Katie in the mangled aftermath. She came forward to the family afterwards with her memory of high speeds and dangerous lane changes.
Katie’s loved ones also learned the side dumper was overloaded by an estimated 10,000 pounds, according to one source.
“The person is speeding. The person is supposedly wriggling in and out of traffic. The rig is overweight and they are choosing to drive a heavy truck for a living…there should be a higher standard for that,” Altman said.
Katie’s family vows to change state law and will host a rally on the steps of the State Capitol on Sept. 6.
Statement from Hennepin County Attorney’s Office
First, we extend our sympathies to the family of Kathryn Burkey. We understand the family is deeply hurt and want to see someone punished for the death of their loved one.
However, after reviewing all of the evidence, we do not believe we could prove a felony charge which would require proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Lindeman’s actions meet the high legal standard of gross negligence. In the cases where we can prove gross negligence, the drivers are usually under the influence of drugs or alcohol or they leave the scene of the accident. None of those factors are involved here. It’s possible careless driving was involved, but that would be a matter for the city attorney.
Whether the law on gross negligence in these driving cases should be changed is up to the legislature.