MN woman dragged, left in snowbank after UTV hit-and-run: Charges

A woman from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, was left with injuries all over her body after authorities in Wisconsin said she was hit by a UTV over the weekend and the driver took off.

It happened about three hours east of the Twin Cities in Westby, Wisconsin, and the alleged driver is in custody, off Bekkedal Avenue.

Early Sunday morning, 36-year-old Emily Helseth was walking back to her sister's house in Westby, Wisconsin, when police said she was hit by a UTV.

According to the court documents, prosecutors believe the driver, 22-year-old Mitchell McKittrick from Viroqua, dragged her from the road to a snowbank after she had been pinned underneath the UTV. 

Police spoke with a witness who said McKittrick called him and asked him to come to the scene around 1:49 a.m. Court documents show the first officer was dispatched to the scene at 3:23 a.m., almost two hours later.

Officers arrested McKittrick that afternoon. He’s been charged with three felonies: first-degree reckless injury, first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and hit-and-run causing great bodily harm, plus a misdemeanor charge of obstructing an officer.

"We've dropped whatever else we are doing to investigate this case and assist the Westby Police Department in this very large endeavor," said Vernon County Sheriff Roy Torgerson.

Helseth’s loved ones told FOX 9 she is the kind of person who lives her life for others. Originally from Wisconsin, she lives in White Bear Lake, where she is a targeted case manager, working with adults with mental health and substance use disorders. Helseth is also a full-time caregiver for her grandma.

"She just always is putting other people before herself in every capacity. We were joking [in the hospital] that she's just everybody's best friend. Everyone's saying, ‘I'm like her sister.’ ‘She's like my sister,’" said Emily Boulay, her best friend of more than a decade.

Boulay said Helseth continues to impress doctors at the hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but it's tough remembering why she's there in the first place.

"She just is the first one to help anyone. It's really difficult to comprehend how someone left her," Boulay said. "As that story develops, just the imagination of how horrible and if they'd called sooner, could it be better? Could she be?"

The ordeal left Helseth with extensive injuries, including a collapsed lung, broken back, broken wrist, and an injured jaw. 

"Physically, she is just broken all over, and she still finds a way to kind of make a joke and tease people," Boulay said.

In the meantime, her friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help with medical expenses. It’s their way of showing up for her the way she does for others, and there's also a Caring Bridge website to learn more. 

"She's got an incredibly long road ahead … We're incredibly grateful that she's alive and fighting as hard as she has fought," Boulay said.

Torgerson, who has visited Helseth in the hospital, said the entire community in western Wisconsin has been affected by the incident. 

"We are praying for Emily's recovery, and she is improving. I saw her today, and I was able to carry on a short conversation with her. I saw her a couple of days ago, and I told her she looked good and she called me a liar," the sheriff said.

McKittrick made his initial appearance in court on Monday and was given a $10,000 cash bond. He's due back in court on Feb. 27.