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Hibbing man pleaded guilty in fatal North Shore crash

A Hibbing truck driver accused of criminal vehicular homicide in a crash that killed the Silver Bay mayor's son pleaded guilty Monday, Dec. 11 in Lake County District Court.

John Ray Carpenter, 61, entered a plea of guilty to operating a motor vehicle in grossly negligent manner avoiding a trial. Carpenter admitted in court to causing the crash that killed 31-year-old Andrew Johnson.

Under the terms of a plea agreement, Carpenter faces three years in prison, but the defense can argue for probation with a stayed sentence. Sixth Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden scheduled sentencing for Feb. 5 at 9 a.m in State District Court in Two Harbors.

Special Assistant Lake County Attorney Lisa Hanson said the victim's family was in agreement with plea agreement offer.

Johnson was killed when his pickup truck was struck head-on by Carpenter's tanker truck along Lax Lake Road on Oct. 22, 2015, according to authorities.

Carpenter, the owner and operator of a septic pumping and portable toilet business, allegedly told law enforcement officers at the scene that he "blacked out" or "dozed off" before striking the oncoming motorist.

Witnesses reportedly told police that Carpenter's truck was driving erratically before the crash, swerving onto the shoulder and across the centerline.

Carpenter also allegedly told authorities at the crash scene that "he has spells every once in a while that cause him to think his eyes are open when they are not," a criminal complaint stated.

Carpenter is also facing a civil lawsuit filed by Johnson's family. Scott Johnson — the mayor of Silver Bay and the victim's father — filed the wrongful death claim against Carpenter in January 2016.

The lawsuit, which seeks in excess of $50,000 in damages, is set for a four-day jury trial to begin March 6 in Two Harbors before Judge Michael Cuzzo.

Andrew Johnson was a 2002 graduate of William Kelley High School in Silver Bay, a former junior hockey player and was working for the City of Silver Bay at the time of his death.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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