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River Falls teen acquitted of vehicular homicide

It took a jury around 90 minutes Friday to find a River Falls teenager not guilty of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

Tanner Brown, 18, W9463 690th Ave., was also acquitted of reckless driving causing injury.

Brown was charged stemming from an accident in May 2012 resulting in the death of Sara Goldbach, 14, River Falls. The trial lasted three days with a jury made up of six men and six women.

“The jury got it right,” said Brown’s attorney, Andrew Nelson of Hudson. “Everyone was relieved. Tanner was happy about it.

“This was an accident, not a crime. On behalf of the Brown family, they express their deep condolences to the Goldbachs. ”


According to the accident report, Brown was northbound on 950th Street in the Town of River Falls on May 18 when he descended a hill and negotiated a curve. The truck on Brown’s passenger side tires then entered the dirt. He overcorrected and swerved to the left into the middle of the road. He then swerved to the right to avoid hitting an oncoming car. The car began to rotate clockwise on the pavement, entered the east ditch and overturned onto its passenger side. The truck came to rest on its passenger side facing south.  Brown was uninjured.

Goldbach was partially ejected and died at the scene. A second passenger, Marlee Gram, 15, was taken to River Falls Area Hospital.

The complaint also said evidence inside the truck indicates the teens were not wearing seatbelts and speed may have been a factor.


Nelson hammered the point of this being an accident, not a crime, during his closing statement.

“The government theory is based on statements from knowingly unreliable witnesses versus our position that doesn’t require a theory,” he said. “Law enforcement conducted an accident investigation, not a criminal investigation...The accident reconstructionist was called to the scene, not a crime reconstructionist.”

As for speed, Nelson said it was not a factor based on the testimony of the state trooper.

“Going six to seven miles per hour over the speed limit is not criminal negligence,” he said. “Getting your right tires off on the gravel on a country road is an extremely common occurrence, especially in a more rural area. He also said Brown was well within his lane, as testimony from the car driver said their mirrors almost touched.

“This was a tragic and extremely unfortunate accident,” Nelson summarized.

District Attorney Sean Froelich couldn’t be reached for comment before the Herald went to press.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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