By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — A 48-year-old Boyceville man has been sentenced to 17 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision for a drunk driving crash on state Highway 79 in February that resulted in the death of a 54-year-old Boyceville woman.
Todd R. Dormanen appeared in Dunn County Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing October 22 before Judge Rod Smeltzer.
Dormanen pleaded guilty to one felony count each of homicide by the intoxicated use a vehicle and Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) causing injury in Dunn County Circuit Court August 17.
Jena Anderson, 54, of Boyceville, died following a head-on collision with a vehicle driven by Dormanen on Highway 79 south of Boyceville in the Town of Sherman on Monday, February 12.
Anderson’s daughter, Kallie, also was injured in the crash and sustained a torn spleen, fractured ribs, and had pins placed in her foot.
In addition to homicide by the intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and OWI causing injury, Dormanen initially was charged with felony counts of OWI fourth offense, homicide by the negligent operation of a vehicle, reckless driving causing great bodily harm and operating a vehicle with a prohibited blood alcohol content.
As part of a plea deal, Dormanen pleaded guilty to the felony counts of homicide by the intoxicated use of a motor vehicle and OWI causing injury, and Judge Smeltzer dismissed the remaining felonies but ordered them read into the record for sentencing.
Following a blood draw nearly three hours after the crash, Dormanen had a blood alcohol level of .154, and at the time of the crash, his blood alcohol would have been .20, more than two times the legal limit. He was traveling 15 miles per hour over the speed limit and was driving in the wrong lane, according to Dunn County District Attorney Andrea Nodolf.
During the sentencing hearing, Jena Anderson’s family members read statements and spoke to Judge Smeltzer about how their lives had been affected by her death and asked for the maximum allowable sentence. Even if Dormanen were sentenced to the maximum of 28 years, he would still have an opportunity to see his children and his family members, something Jena Anderson had taken away from her, they said.
Charlie Anderson, Jena Anderson’s son, said February 12 started out like “like any other day” but ended up with an “easily avoidable tragedy” in which his mother died and his sister was injured in crash caused by a thoughtless and reckless drunk driver.
Jena Anderson was a kind, caring, loving mother, nurse and caregiver, Charlie Anderson said.
She had been ecstatic about the birth of her first grandchild, his son, who is now two years old, he said.
Holly Anderson, Jena’s daughter, brought a small vial of Jena’s ashes with her to the sentencing hearing.
Todd Dormanen “is alive” and was “the luckiest guy in the accident,” she said.
Holly Anderson’s younger sister, Kallie, would be celebrating her 20 the birthday just five days after the sentencing hearing, and it would be Kallie’s first birthday without their mother, Holly Anderson said.
Jena Anderson was the happiest Holly Anderson had ever seen her mother when her first grandson was born, she said.
Holly said she has not yet found a “new normal” and dreaded the first holiday season without her mother.
“Life will never be the same,” she said.
The pre-sentence investigation (PSI) indicated Dormanen is remorseful and wishes he could take it back, but two marriages and three children did not stop his alcoholism, Holly Anderson said.
The bartender said Dormanen was a regular at the bar where he had stopped that Monday morning. A friend had offered him a ride home, but he chose to be selfish, she said.
Dormanen is a danger to society, to his family and to himself, and even if he is sentenced to the maximum of 28 years, he is still “the luckiest man in the accident,” Holly Anderson said.
“My future family will never experience my mother,” and “regret does not bring anyone back,” she said.
A shorter sentence would be “an injustice to my mother,” Holly Anderson said.
Ron Anderson, Jena Anderson’s husband, said he and Jena had been happily married for 34 years.
Jena was his fishing partner, he said, and she was always delighted when she caught bigger fish and more fish than he did.
Three years ago, they had bought a place “up north,” and had enjoyed being on the lake, fishing and grilling and together doing all of the activities they enjoyed, he said.
Jena was 13 years away from retirement, and Ron said he was 10 years away from retirement, and they had planned that their place up north would be very much a part of their retirement plans.
Ron Anderson said he’d had the boat lift put in this year, but he could not bring himself to go fishing without his fishing partner.
Jena and Kallie left to go shopping early that Monday afternoon on February 12, and Kallie called fifteen minutes later and said they had been in an accident, he said.
Ron Anderson said he rushed to the scene of the crash, where it looked as if two cars had “exploded.”
A law enforcement officer told him he could not go over to the car, but Ron Anderson said he was going anyway because “that’s my wife.”
A first responder told him Jena “was gone,” and Ron Anderson said he made telephone calls from the scene to tell his other two children their mother had died.
Later that night when he came back from the hospital, Ron Anderson said he drove past the scene of the accident, and that is when he fully realized his wife “was gone.”
Ron Anderson told the court that since then, his life “is a mess,” that he could not stand to be in Boyceville where Dormanen lived two blocks from his home and one block from his place of employment and that he had ended up taking a two-month leave of absence from his work.
Bail was set at $10,000 cash for Dormanen March 1, and Dormanen posted the cash bail March 14.
Ron Anderson said it was an injustice that Dormanen was out on bail.
“This is unbearable,” he said. “I miss Jena.”
Ron Anderson said he was angry about what Dormanen had taken from him — his partner “for over half of my life.”
When Dormanen is finally released from prison, he should be required to talk to high school classes about the real-life consequences of drinking and driving and about the families that are destroyed by reckless decisions, Ron Anderson said.
If February 12 had not happened, Dormanen would still be drinking and driving, and it “would not be my family but another family,” he said.
Kallie Anderson said she and her mother had left around noon for “routine” grocery shopping February 12, and ten minutes later, her mother had been killed by an “ultimate act of selfishness.”
After the crash, in addition to her physical injuries, Kallie Anderson said she dreaded getting into cars and would think, “is this going to be the ride that kills me?”
When cars approach in the opposite lane of traffic, Kallie said she “goes numb.”
Kallie Anderson said her “heart breaks” when she thinks about the fact her mother will never experience her graduation from college, her wedding or the birth of her children.
For Jena’s birthday in July, Kallie Anderson said she visited the memorial on Highway 79.
“I don’t know if my life will ever be the same without my amazing mom,” Kallie Anderson said.
Todd Dormanen has been free on bail for the past eight months, and Kallie said she wanted justice for her mother.
Kallie Anderson said there is “no easy fix,” and she does not know if there is “any such thing as closure.”
The crash that killed Jena Anderson was “not a mistake” and was “not a tragic accident,” District Attorney Nodolf said.
Todd Dormanen knew he was too drunk to drive, “but chose to drive and took an innocent life,” she said.
During sentencing, the judge must consider that Dormanen be held accountable for his actions, the seriousness of the offense, the character of the perpetrator and the need to protect the public, Nodolf said.
On the morning of February 12, Dormanen finished his shift at Phillips Medisize then went to a bar with a co-worker and stayed for more than five hours, drinking between 10 and 15 cans of Busch Light beer, she said.
The bartender told Dormanen not to drive. Dormanen did not follow the advice and stopped at Marketplace and bought two bottles of vodka, one for himself and one for someone else, and had gone home to Boyceville, Nodolf said.
Accident reconstruction revealed the Anderson car had been traveling at 60 mph, then braked for 2.5 seconds and was going 39 mph at the time the car collided with the Dormanen vehicle traveling 70 mph at impact, Nodolf said.
Jena Anderson had pulled over to the right as far as she could and “had nowhere else to go,” she said.
Nodolf said she had researched Dormanen’s cell phone records, and at 12:09, thirty minutes before the crash, Dormanen had sent a message saying he knew he was too drunk to drive and risk his daughter’s life, she said.
Nodolf told the court she wanted to play the first two minutes of the 911 call, but Dormanen’s attorney, William Schembera, objected, saying the tape would re-traumatize Jena Anderson’s family.
At first, Judge Smeltzer said he would not allow the 911 tape to be played in court, but Nodolf said the Anderson family had asked to have the tape played. When Judge Smeltzer asked Ron Anderson if he wanted Judge Smeltzer to hear the tape, Anderson replied, “yes.”
On the tape, Kallie Anderson can be heard speaking to the dispatcher and alternately crying and screaming.
The recording is “hard to listen to,” Nodolf said.
Jena was killed instantly, and Kallie was pinned in the car with multiple injuries, she said.
Jena and Kallie did nothing wrong that day. The defendant should be punished and the public protected, Nodolf said.
Schembera, Dormanen’s attorney, noted the members of Dormanen’s family who were present in court for the sentencing hearing. About half of the people in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing were Dormanen’s relatives.
The accident “was a tragedy for both families,” he said.
Dormanen has children who are 18 years old, 14 years old and nine years old, and the defendant is 48 years old, Schembera said.
Dormanen knows he made a “major mistake,” and knows he must pay for the mistake. It is not a matter of “if he is going to prison,” “but for how long,” Schembera said.
Dormanen also addressed the court and said he regrets what happened and wishes he could change it.
“I am truly sorry for what I have done,” he said, adding that he knows he cannot “take it back,” cannot change it and cannot fix it.
Dormanen said he “will be sober from now on” and that he takes responsibility for his actions.
Judge Smeltzer said he hoped Jena Anderson’s family could find a way to move forward because Jena “would want you to find a degree of happiness and strength.”
“Give back in her memory. She continues to live through you,” Judge Smeltzer said.
As for Todd Dormanen, “we have a hard time wrapping our arms around something that did not have to happen,” he said.
Dormanen worked the third shift and then went to a bar and started “sucking down beers,” Judge Smeltzer said.
The judge said he had worked third shift himself at one time in his life, and by the time he finished the night’s work, he did not have much energy left.
If Dormanen had gone home, he could have drank as many beers as he wanted until he “fell out of his chair,” and the rest of the world could have said, “go ahead, knock yourself out.”
But Dormanen drank so many beers he decided he could not get in his car and pick up his daughter, and “that’s what makes this criminal,” Judge Smeltzer said.
The gravity of the offense cannot be any more serious, he said.
“When this happens, one might as well use a gun. The results are the same,” Judge Smeltzer said.
On Count 1, homicide by the intoxicated use a vehicle, Judge Smeltzer sentenced Dormanen to 14 years of initial confinement and 12 years of extended supervision, and on Count 2, Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) causing injury, he sentenced Dormanen to three years of initial confinement and three years of extended supervision. The sentences for both counts are to be served consecutively.
Dormanen cannot possess any firearms, cannot vote, must maintain absolute sobriety, must take an Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse assessment and follow through with treatment, must pay the DNA surcharge and court costs of $518 on each count, and must pay $3,308.17 in restitution.
Dormanen also must not have any contact with Jena Anderson’s family or their residences or with her mother, LeAnn Mork.
Judge Smeltzer also revoked Dormanen’s driver’s license for five years on Count 1 and for 24 months on Count 2.