HENDERSON — Family members of a couple killed by a Sibley County farmer’s unsecured trailer told a judge they weren’t happy with a plea deal.
The family of Marvin and Kathy Fandrich of Aberdeen, South Dakota, asked for Curtis Marc Petzel to be given the maximum year in jail allowed under the reduced charges.
Judge Jessica Maher on Thursday ordered Petzel, 62, of Arlington, to spend 20 days in jail for his role in the crash that killed the Fandrichs.
Petzel was on a tractor pulling an empty 16-foot-long livestock trailer on Highway 19 west of Henderson on June 1, 2019, according to court documents. The trailer came unhooked and struck the Fandrichs’ motorcycle. Marvin, 60, and Kathy, 61, died at the scene.
The couple was married 39 years and was on a motorcycle road trip, their daughters said at a virtual sentencing hearing Thursday.
“Curtis took the lives of a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa, best friends and co-workers that could never be replaced,” daughter Shannon Shoultz told the court during a victim impact statement.
“A careless, cold-hearted, repugnant person wiped Mom and Dad off the face of the earth,” daughter Nicole Grosz said.
Petzel initially faced manslaughter and criminal vehicular homicide charges but pleaded down to a gross misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.
The initial charges faulted a rusty mismatched ball hitch and coupler, as well as unused safety chains and breakaway hitch. Petzel’s brother testified at a later court hearing that he connected the tractor and the trailer, according to the Star Tribune.
The maximum allowed sentence for reckless driving is one year in jail. A sentencing recommendation based on Petzel’s criminal history proposed 10 days in jail, along with community service and probation.
Ten days is not enough consequence for taking two lives, members of the Fandrich family told the judge.
“I would like him to sit in jail with nothing but his thoughts eating away at him,” Grosz said. “He needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Ten days in jail is not good enough.”
Defense attorney John Skubitz requested Petzel not serve any jail time and instead be ordered to do extra community service. Petzel is a dairy farmer and needs to take care of his farm, Skubitz said.
Petzel declined to make a statement during the hearing.
Maher said she understood the impact jail time would have on Petzel’s farm and said it was warranted.
“I do believe Mr. Petzel has demonstrated some genuine remorse,” she said. “But I also believe his actions are ones that call for some consequences that includes jail time.”
Maher ordered the maximum year in jail but stayed 344 of those days. With credit for one day already spent in jail after the crash, that means Petzel likely will spend 20 more days in jail. The remaining days will be waived as long as he successfully completes 100 hours of community service and two years of probation.
Petzel spent two days in jail after he caused another fatal crash on the same highway in 2017. He rear-ended a car with his pickup in Gaylord.
Petzel said he was daydreaming and did not see the car, according to documents in that case. The car was pushed into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist and the motorcyclist was killed.
Petzel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor careless driving in that case and was sentenced to two days in jail, community service and probation.