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Cadott man pleads not guilty to six felonies for fatal accident near Elk Mound

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — A 21-year-old Cadott man has pleaded not guilty to six felonies and five misdemeanors in connection with a fatal accident on I-94 near Elk Mound that killed two people and injured six others on October 11.

Michael D. Sonnentag was arraigned in Dunn County Circuit Court November 21 on two counts each of homicide by the intoxicated use of a motor vehicle, hit and run involving death, and first degree recklessly endangering safety, and was also arraigned on four misdemeanor counts of  causing injury while intoxicated and one count of bail jumping.

A cash bail of $50,000 was set October 13, but bail was modified to $20,000 cash following a preliminary hearing on October 29. As a condition of bail, Sonnentag was ordered to consume no alcohol and to maintain residence with his father in Stanley.

According to the criminal complaint, the Dunn County communications center received reports of a accident on I-94 in the Town of Elk Mound on October 11 at around 2:40 a.m.

When deputies arrived on the scene, they observed a vehicle that had rolled numerous times and was upside-down in the treeline.

Witnesses reported a second vehicle involved in the accident had fled the scene, initially going the wrong way on I-94, but then was observed going westbound again a few minutes later.

The witnesses said they had tried to flag down the vehicle, but it drove around them.

The vehicle, witnesses said, was smoking heavily and appeared to have heavy front-end damage.

One semi driver told law enforcement officers that the hood of the second vehicle had been in the middle of the lane of traffic, so he had pulled it off on the shoulder to prevent another accident.

Two women who were thrown from the van were killed, and six others in the van were injured.

The two people who died were a 28-year-old woman, Larci Ricafrente from Waterford, Mich., and another 28-year-old woman, Djamella Sugatan from the Philippines.

The injured included two children, a five-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy.

Alvin Dimaranan, the driver of the Honda minivan, told state troopers that they were traveling from Illinois to the Mall of America in Minnesota.

According to the complaint, not long after the accident, the Menomonie Police Department reported an abandoned vehicle in the driveway of Value Implement at 610th Street and state Highway 12/29.

At around 4:30 a.m., another deputy observed a vehicle that had pulled into a driveway on 12/29 but the vehicle did not appear to belong there.

Zachery Kempf, the driver of the second vehicle, said he was there to pick up Michael Sonnentag, the registered owner of the vehicle found at Value Implement.

Kempf told deputies Sonnentag had called him at around 3 a.m., said he struck a deer, and that he wanted Kempf to come and pick him up.

Deputies continued searching for Sonnentag, and around 6:42 a.m., a deputy leaving the Dunn County sheriff’s department at the judicial center on Stokke Parkway saw a man walking.

When the deputy got out of his car and asked the man who he was, he replied, “It’s me” and told the deputy he was the one “they were looking for.”

When deputies asked how Sonnentag had left the scene of the accident, he said he had exited I-94 near Shooter’s just west of Elk Mound.

A status conference for the Sonnentag case is scheduled in Dunn County Circuit Court December 19.