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Justin R. Pierce

Justin R. Pierce

An Adams County man charged with vehicular homicide in Juneau County waived his right to a preliminary hearing in Juneau County Circuit Court on Friday.

The last-minute waiver by Justin R. Pierce, 30, of Arkdale suggests the case is headed for settlement without a trial. Christopher Van Wagner, Pierce’s attorney, told the court that talks aimed at a plea deal were ongoing.

Judge Paul Curran scheduled arraignment Feb. 25 for Pierce, who is free on a $100,000 signature bond.

At a preliminary hearing, a judge determines whether a crime likely was committed and whether reasonable evidence exists to prove the accused committed the crime.

Pierce was charged in March 2012 with homicide by use of a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration in the crash that claimed the life of 20-year-old Laura Kruger of Mauston.

Kruger died Oct. 18, 2011, at UW Hospital in Madison as a result of injuries she suffered in the crash with Pierce in the town of Kildare two days before.

According to the report of the Juneau County Sheriff’s Office, Kruger was driving a car north shortly after midnight Oct. 16 on county Highway HH when she entered a curve near the intersection with 55th Street and collided with Pierce, who was driving a car south while using a cell phone.

“Pierce stated he took a picture with his cell phone and was going to send it to his friends to show he was on his way to Wisconsin Dells,” the complaint states.

An autopsy revealed that Kruger died from severe trauma to her head, chest and abdomen, and that there was no alcohol in her system.

Both drivers were taken to Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston and then to UW Hospital in Madison, where Kruger later died.

A sample of Pierce’s blood taken 70 minutes after the crash indicated a blood alcohol concentration of 0.104, above the 0.08 legal limit in Wisconsin.

Cell phone records indicated that someone had used Pierce’s phone to send 12 text messages in the 20 minutes before the crash, which happened at about 12:20 a.m.

Pierce also received five traffic citations. The single felony count against him carries a maximum prison sentence of 25 years.

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