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Guilty plea entered in fatal vehicle crash in Hampton Township

Keri James Gesme, a 27-year-old Hampton man, will be sentenced Feb. 18 in connection with a fatal vehicle crash a year ago in Hampton Township.

On Monday, Dec. 9, Gesme pled guilty to one charge of criminal vehicular homicide (a felony) in connection with the crash that killed 27-year-old Dennis Paul Underwood, of Cannon Falls. He had been charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide. The other two charges will be dismissed at the time of the sentencing.

The Nov. 8, 2012, crash occurred on Highway 50 just outside of New Trier. When officers and medics arrived at the scene, they found a truck lying on its driver’s side in the yard of a residence. A deceased male was lying near a tree. He was identified as Underwood. Another male, identified as Gesme, was found lying about 75 feet west of where the truck landed.

Gesme told one of the officers that he was the owner of the truck involved in the crash. He said he did not remember anything about the crash other than that he had not been driving. The officer smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Gesme’s breath. He was transported to a hospital for treatment.

A witness told officers that he heard a truck leave from right across from his house and that it was accelerating. He heard the truck’s wheels squeal when the truck shifted gears. He then heard tires screech and then a loud crash.

A blood sample was taken from Gesme at Regions Hospital and it indicated an alcohol concentration of .20. Various areas of the truck were swabbed and DNA samples from both Gesme and Underwood were submitted to the BCA. The analysis revealed that Underwood’s blood was on the passenger side.

A Minnesota State Patrol reconstruction revealed that Gesme was the driver and that he was driving up to 106 miles per hour when the truck went airborne and struck the first tree. The reconstruction also concluded that Underwood’s fatal injuries were a result of his impact with a tree after he was ejected from the truck.

As part of Monday’s ruling, Judge Karen Asphaug ordered a psychological evaluation of Gesme.