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Man who killed Morris-area woman in car crash sentenced to 6 years

By David Unze

St. Cloud Times

A Stearns County judge on Oct. 21 sentenced a man to six years in prison for a DWI that happened five years after he killed a Morris-area woman while driving and coming down off a methamphetamine high.

John Wayne Jensen, 24, had asked to be sent to Minnesota Teen Challenge instead of prison. Teen Challenge is a faith-based, residential chemical dependency program for teens and adults.

But Stearns County District Court Judge John Scherer denied that request, saying Jensen had a chance at Teen Challenge as part of his criminal vehicular homicide sentence in Stevens County and that he walked away from the program before completing it.

Scherer cited that and other treatment opportunities that Jensen has been afforded that didn't prevent him from driving drunk in August 2009 near Paynesville.

Jensen was charged with and pleaded guilty to felony DWI from the arrest.

"It's troubling that you know the impact of (driving under the influence) and you put yourself in that position again," Scherer said.

Jensen was convicted of criminal vehicular homicide for the May 1, 2004, death of 71-year-old Ellen Anderson. She was heading home from a Morris grocery store when Jensen's pickup veered into her lane and crushed her car. Jensen, 18 at the time, said he was coming down off a meth binge and hadn't slept in three days when he nodded off and hit Anderson's car.

Jensen was arrested in August 2009 after an officer reported seeing his vehicle weaving on Minnesota Highway 23 near Paynesville.

A court complaint indicates that the officer saw Jensen swerve over the fog line and the center line repeatedly and almost hit a vehicle head-on. The court complaint indicates that Jensen had a preliminary blood-alcohol content of 0.11, over the 0.08 legal limit for driving.

Jensen apologized before he was sentenced and acknowledged that he had made bad choices in his life that put him a position where he didn't want to be.

Jensen's attorney argued that his client has suffered from the trauma of witnessing the killing of his mother when he was 4 or 5 and that his decision-making has been influenced by that trauma.

"I wish on no one what you had to go through as a child," Scherer told Jensen at sentencing. "But I can't ignore the public safety risk that you pose."