MINNEAPOLIS - A Minnetrista man has struck a plea deal in the death of his young daughter, who drowned after the family car plunged into Lake Minnetonka last January.
Jonathan Markle, age 41, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in Hennepin County Court Wednesday. In return for his plea Markle was sentenced to 57-months in prison, time that will be stayed for five years unless he breaks conditions of probation.
Among those conditions:
- That he not consume alcohol or illegal drugs
- Continue alcohol treatment
- Write a letter to the 2 people on scene that helped in attempted rescue at scene
- Make 100 speeches over the next five years to talk about the dangers of drinking and driving
Police say Markle was driving through the channel between Priest's and Halstead bays in Lake Minnetonka January 18 when his SUV broke through the thin ice of a channel.
Markle, his wife and their two-year-old daughter were able to escape. Firefighters pulled eight-month-old Tabitha from the SUV after several dramatic diving attempts, but she died at a hospital. Her death was ruled an accidental drowning.
Prosecutors say that Markle had a blood alcohol level of .13 a full two hours after the vehicle went into the water.
At that time Markle's attorney Joe Friedberg says that he doesn't know why his client decided to drive across the lake after a meal that night at Lord Fletcher's. He did maintain that the courts couldn't punish Markle more than he's already punished himself for the loss of his daughter.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman agreed. "There is absolutely nothing society can say to this man to make the penalty worse than losing a child because of your own negligence."
Freeman said he was satisfied with the no-jail time plea deal. "It is apparent he has taken steps to resolve his addiction issues. He is engaged with his family. He has continued to work hard and most important to us, he has acknowledged responsibility. So, I think he is a perfect person to do these kinds of speeches and I am hoping he does them."
"Our heart goes out to the family, absolutely," said Diane Homa, Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim's advocate. "Losing a child in any way is torture and losing it in this manner is even harder. We would hope that the public takes note of this and not use chemicals or alcohol when they are driving and especially with children in the car."
Markle made no comment in Hennepin County Court Wednesday morning.
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