Lawyer: ‘Probable’ that Tesla was on autopilot in crash that killed doctor

An Edina man who previously denied hitting and killing a doctor in Mille Lacs County back in November has now told investigators he doesn’t remember if he hit the woman with his Tesla, and if he did, he would have been driving on "autopilot" and not paying attention, according to new search warrant filings.

Charges have not been filed in the case. The search warrants filed have investigators seeking email and cell phone records from the 42-year-old man.

Cathy Donovan was fatally struck in November as she was walking her dog along Highway 169, south of Grand Casino. Donovan’s body was found by another driver in the roadway shortly before 5 p.m. on Nov. 13, 2023. She appeared to be crossing the road when she was hit. 

The vehicle that hit Donovan had left the scene. According to the search warrant, only a windshield wiper was left at the scene. 

According to the court filings, the man told investigators he "does not remember hitting Donovan with his Tesla" but said "if he did he would have been alone, driving on autopilot, not paying attention to the road, while doing things like checking work emails." 

Court documents say the man’s Tesla was seized for evidence and investigators found some light damage on the front passenger side. Investigators also found that the hood was "slightly moved backward from its original factory position."

Investigators confirmed the man was in the area of the crash as his cell phone was pinged near the crash. He told investigators he was likely driving up to his cabin. 

The man’s lawyer told FOX 9 in a statement, "This is a horrible tragedy for all involved. My client is inconsolable thinking that he was involved in the accident with Ms. Donovan, and he is heartbroken for her family, her loved ones, and the community."

"We are committed to finding out the entire truth about what occurred. My client voluntarily spoke to investigators, and he explained it is probable his car would’ve been using Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Capability. He will continue to fully cooperate with this investigation until its completion as we continue to learn new information," the lawyer continued.