Impaired, wrong-way driver in court for deaths of three cabin-bound Minnesota men

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Jeremy Berchem, Adam Kendhammer and Bryan Rudell were heading to a cabin when they were struck by wrong-way driver on I-94.

Serghei Kundilovski was wheeled into a Dunn County, Wisconsin courtroom in a wheelchair Wednesday afternoon, right past the families of the three men he is charged with killing in a crash on Interstate 94.

Jeremy Berchem, 27, and two others, 32-year-old Adam Kendhammer and his boyfriend Bryan Rudell, 29, were heading from Minneapolis to a cabin in Wisconsin on July 13 when they were struck by a wrong-way driver on Interstate 94 in Dunn County. According to the Wisconsin State Patrol report, Kundilovski’s black Mitsubishi crossed over the median and drove for almost three miles before striking the Kia Soul carrying the three friends.

“I saw a picture of the defendant and I guess I felt I needed to be in that room to represent my brother as much as I possibly could,” said Clay Kendhammer.

Kundilovski’s injuries have kept him hospitalized now for nearly a month, but he was well enough on Wednesday to make his first court appearance on a total of nine felony counts, including first-degree reckless homicide that comes with a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison. He had a Russian translator by his side at the hearing.

"There's people who just take in this world. And that's a person who has no regard for anyone or anything,” Clay Kendhammer said. “He just takes -- so there's an overwhelming feeling that you would like to take something back."

According to the criminal complaint, Kundilovski was impaired and driving out of control when he ended up in the opposite lanes of traffic for several miles before the head-on collision. Investigators found a couple “ultra duster” canned air containers in and around his vehicle. Subsequent blood tests detected ethanol in Kundilovski’s system. His license had recently been revoked for another DWI.

The pain has been overwhelming for the friends and family of Berchem, Kendhammer  and Rudell.

“If these three guys didn’t die, they’d be contributing to society,” Kendhammer said. “They’d be working. This is a work day. They’d be at jobs, making plans for the future, making new friends and relationships, helping other people out. But they’re gone. And none of that is happening.”

The defendant will be back at the courthouse next week for his preliminary hearing -- that’s where the judge determines whether enough evidence for this reckless homicide case to head to trial.