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Wide White: Another innocent life taken

Monday, July 19, 2010

Another innocent life taken

3/28/2011 UPDATE:

Leah Graeber has been declared "not mentally competent for trial." The prosecution is trying to get her civilly committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. More details in this Pioneer Press article.


12/7/2010 UPDATE:

The Pioneer Press is reporting that Graeber was traveling at speeds of up to 86 MPH. "A criminal complaint charges Graeber with criminal vehicular homicide by gross negligence, causing bodily harm by operating a vehicle and possession of cocaine. Authorities say a blood test showed Graeber was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash."

The Star Tribune is reporting that Graeber hit 100 MPH just before impact. "Troopers found an open container of beer, two pipes with residue and a plastic tube in Graeber's vehicle. Tests on those items revealed trace amounts of cocaine and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana." "A blood test revealed that Graeber was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash."


Last night I found out about a car accident less than 2 miles from my house. A car had crossed the median into oncoming traffic. Someone was dead.

My heart sank and I just hoped (selfishly, I suppose) that I didn't know anyone involved. I know that area well and it's a wide median. There's no reason for anyone in their right mind to be crossing it.

As it turns out, the driver wasn't in her right mind.
The driver who crossed into oncoming traffic on a Burnsville highway, killing an 11-year-old boy in an oncoming SUV, was drinking, the State Patrol said Monday.

Shortly after 8 p.m. Sunday, 27-year-old Leah Graeber was driving her car south on Hwy. 13, when she crossed the median, vaulted into northbound traffic and struck an SUV, the patrol said. Graeber's car then struck another passenger vehicle.

Graeber, of Savage, was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center and is expected to survive, according to the patrol.

An open alcohol container and drug paraphernalia were found in Graeber's car, said Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.

The boy who died was identified by his hockey coach Monday as Joel (Joey) Balistreri, of Burnsville. Coach Steve Wedan said Joey attended St. John the Baptist School.

His father, Geoffrey Balistreri, 43, was driving. His mother, Pamela Balistreri, 38, and sister Megan also were in the vehicle. All three suffered non-life threatening injuries, the patrol said.

The driver of the second vehicle struck was uninjured.
I guess the fact that it happened so close to where I live and the fact that the kid whose life was just taken happens to have the same unusual birth name/nickname combo as I have made this even more meaningful to me than other similar accidents.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need stiffer drunk driving penalties!!

I don't just mean instances where someone dies. I mean huge, life-changing penalties the first time someone is caught driving under the influence.

There's just no excuse for this.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Melissa declared,

I completely agree! After reading a story about this horrible accident on KARE, I GOOGLE searched Leah Graeber and found her Facebook page. Here is her status update from Sunday morning (yesterday) "Leah Graeber smoke smoke smoke?.!!!?.!!!?.!!!1!!!." I, too, am very familiar with this area. My sister lives in Burnsville off hwy 13. My husband, 7 yr old son and I have traveled this stretch of road numerous times. This didn't need to happen to this family! People - think about your actions and not just about yourselves!

7/19/2010 4:11 PM  
Blogger Jamie declared,

Wow, this really is sad. By the looks of her FB page she appears to spend a lot of time smoking and doing other productive activities. One can only hope that this wakes her up. What a senseless loss.

7/19/2010 4:23 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Yeah, her Facebook page definitely doesn't do her any favors, but then, a lot of people drink beer with their mom and smoke. Driving a car is where she went wrong.

7/19/2010 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

I used to know Leah 5 years ago, she is a bipolar crazy alcohol and drug addict. She has been picked up by the cops so many times for doing crazy stuff like running across the street naked. I hope she pays for what she has done!!!

7/19/2010 6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

I have know Leah for about 5 years. I hope she pays for what she did to that family. I hate when people drink and drive. I was just on that road about 10 minutes before that accident happened.My prayers are with both families.

7/19/2010 9:28 PM  
Blogger Kuntree88 declared,

Wow, I'll tell ya one thing I sure do love it when asshole's assume things... I'm not sure if you heard but the bloodtest came back NEGATIVE for alcohol. Before you jump to anymore conclusions or assumptions how about we see how this thing plays out? Or better yet maybe listen to what she might have to say. Lol and to the two children that had to be "Anonymous" in order to say what they had to say, you kids are some horrible human beings way to kick someone when there down but it's alright god loves ugly.

7/21/2010 2:04 AM  
Blogger Brad Johnston declared,

Kuntree88 is right... just because all that Leah talked about on Facebook is smoking and that they found an open alcohol container as well as some drug paraphernalia in the car that she was driving, doesn't mean anything right? :) I'd LOVE to hear her side of the story. Maybe she was talking on the phone when she lost control of her car and cross the median. That would be okay too, right?

7/21/2010 9:22 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

"Alcohol was detected..."

"She has a history of alcohol-related police calls from Burnsville and Savage."

I hope she wasn't drunk and technically she's still innocent until proven guilty, but when you add up her history and what was found in her car and in her bloodstream, things aren't looking pretty.

7/21/2010 2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous declared,

I would just like to say that I know Leah and her blood tests from the hospital came back negative for both alcohol and drugs. Who knows how long those things could have been in her car. Make sure you get facts and not media speculation before you start damning people.

7/22/2010 1:57 PM  
Blogger Joey declared,

Still waiting for more information, but the latest.


Alcohol was detected in Graeber’s system, State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said.

“We also found an open container of alcohol and some drug paraphernalia in her vehicle,” he said.

Graeber was still at Hennepin County Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries as of Tuesday, Roeske said. Results of a blood test and possible criminal charges await.

"I don’t anticipate that happening anytime real soon," Roeske said. "It just takes time for the investigation to get wrapped up and sent to the county attorney."

The Savage Police Department had two mental health-related contacts with Graeber in 2007 and 2008, Capt. Dave Muelken said.

Neither incident involved crimes or Graeber being taken to detox, he said.


I'll try to post back here when I know more, but it's not looking good so far.

7/23/2010 10:52 AM  
Blogger Reegz declared,

If not for the grace of God, there to go I!

7/26/2010 8:41 AM  
Blogger Joey declared,

I don't know if this clears things up or makes them more muddled:

http://wcco.com/crime/woman.burnsville.crash.2.1867805.html

8/19/2010 1:17 PM  

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