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Judge denies change of venue in Cottonwood bus crash case

MARSHALL -- The trial of Olga Marina Franco Del Cid, the 24-year-old Minneota woman charged in the fatal Cottonwood school bus crash, will begin July 28 in Kandiyohi County District Court in Willmar.

In an order issued Tuesday, District Judge David W. Peterson denied a second motion for change of venue filed by Franco's attorneys.

Peterson indicated that Kandiyohi County is the "preferred location" for the trial.

Peterson's first order granting Franco's request for a change of venue -- moving the trial to Kandiyohi County -- was issued June 11. Franco's attorneys then requested a hearing to argue a second motion for change of venue from Kandiyohi County.

According to the order issued Tuesday, Franco's defense argued for a transfer to another county where there would be a more diverse jury pool, better facilities and more convenient location for defense counsel.

Peterson cited several reasons in denying Franco's request, including that Kandiyohi County is sufficiently distant from Lyon County to provide the detachment necessary for a fair and impartial jury, yet close enough to allow those interested in the trial to conveniently attend.

He also stated that the county was willing to accept the first change of venue from Lyon County and that the Willmar courthouse is "a facility with state-of-the-art security and high-profile trial experience."

Peterson also stated that the Court "has no reason to conclude that the diversity of the Kandiyohi County jury pool" impedes Franco's right to a fair trial.

Franco faces four counts of criminal vehicular homicide, 17 counts of criminal vehicular injury, one count of giving a false name or date of birth to a peace officer, a stop sign violation and a charge of no Minnesota driver's license. She is alleged to have driven a vehicle into an oncoming Lakeview School bus on Feb. 19 on state Highway 23.

Four children -- Jesse Javens, 13, Hunter Javens, 9, Emilee Olson, 9, and Reed Stevens, 12 -- died from injuries suffered in the crash. Seventeen other children suffered injuries, including broken bones, internal injuries, cuts, scrapes, bruises and other injuries.