On February 19, 2012, Robert Tofstad struck and killed 85-year-old Ruth Brendel with his car. Ruth was walking to St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Winona, Minnesota. Robert Tofstad’s car windows were covered in frost and he didn’t see Ruth before hitting her. A breath test showed that 19-year-old Tofstad was legally intoxicated at the time he hit Ruth. Tofstad admitted to drinking the night before the accident. Police believe that had Tofstad cleared his windows of frost that he would have seen Ruth and would not have struck her. Tofstad pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and will spend 60 days in jail plus one weekend a year for ten years. The weekend Tofstad will spend in jail each year will coincide with, and serve to commemorate, Ruth’s death.
I do not know either party in this sad story. I ran across the Associated Press story about the incident on InForum. I am torn about this story. I really like the creative sentencing applied by the court of the annual weekend jail time, but I wonder if Ruth’s family is satisfied with a mere 60 days plus 10 weekends. I don’t know that I would be satisfied with that if Ruth was my family member.
I understand compassion and the fact that this young man is only 19, but I don’t think a sentence of 80 days is enough. I think that Tofstad should have been sentenced to at least a year and then served his 10 weekends after that. But as I said, I don’t know either party and the rationale that the court relied upon for the length of the sentence. I imagine the judge took into account a number of factors in this case to include Tofstad’s age, prior record, and level of remorse. Nothing will bring Ruth back, but every year – for ten years – the manner of her death will be remembered from a jail cell. That part of the sentence seems absolutely fair and right to me.
Day one thousand two hundred of the new forty – obla di obla da