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Sarah Smith, Park Rapids Enterprise, Published January 29 2009

Fatal crash prompts charges

Driver faces felony counts in death of Hitterdal man

PARK RAPIDS, Minn. – A man charged in a fatal crash near Park Rapids last week now faces multiple felonies resulting from that accident, which killed a Hitterdal man.

This week, Hubbard County Attorney Donovan Dearstyne charged Robert Louis McGrath, 49, of Minneapolis with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

The charges accuse McGrath of negligent operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, resulting in the death of 53-year-old Dale McDougall of Hitterdal.

The Jan. 21 accident occurred between Park Rapids and Nevis on Highway 34.

According to court documents:

McGrath’s vehicle crossed the highway center line and struck McDougall’s pickup head-on in the wrong lane of traffic.

McGrath was legally impaired at the time, driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of greater than .08 percent, the state’s legal threshold for drunken driving.

State Patrol Trooper Dion Pederson observed that “McGrath’s speech was slurred and his face was flushed. Trooper Pederson asked McGrath if he had drank alcohol prior to the crash and McGrath admitted he had.

“When the Trooper asked McGrath how much he had to drink, McGrath responded, ‘More than I should have,’ ” the charging document states.

McGrath also faces a charge of driving while intoxicated.

McGrath has a history of drunken driving arrests, which elevated the third count to second-degree DWI.

A search of court records for him shows previous DWI convictions in Minnesota in 1992 and 2001.

McGrath was airlifted to Fargo’s Innovis Health following the accident. He was released and made his first court appearance Tuesday on the charges.

If convicted, the two criminal vehicular homicide charges carry a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

The DWI charge is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. His next court appearance is set for Feb. 9.


The Park Rapids Enterprise and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.