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Driver of beet truck sentenced in crash that killed 18-year-old

The driver of a sugar beet truck involved in a crash that killed an 18-year-old woman from Wahpeton, N.D., last fall has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

Cathleen Mary Dean of Barney, N.D., will also have to pay $550 in court costs under the sentence handed down Monday in Richland County District Court by Judge Daniel Narum.

Dean was sentenced after she pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Annie Gjesdal, who died Sept. 29 after her vehicle collided at a Wahpeton intersection with a semi driven by Dean.

Dean failed to stop at a stoplight, according to court documents that said Dean stated she saw the light turn from green to yellow and thought she could make it through the intersection.

Witnesses said two vehicles that were driving on the same avenue as Gjesdal went through the intersection on a green light before Gjesdal's vehicle entered the intersection and collided with the truck Dean was driving, court documents state.

During Monday's sentencing hearing, Dean told the court she is sorry for what happened, said Ron McBeth, an assistant Richland County state's attorney.

"It's truly tragic," said Cash Aaland, Dean's attorney.

"She (Dean) thinks about it daily, wishes she could undo it," Aaland said.

McBeth said Dean's plea was an open plea, meaning there was no plea agreement with the prosecution.

He added that he did not submit a recommended sentence to the court.

The charge Dean pleaded guilty to carries a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison, McBeth said.

Dean will be on supervised probation for two years following her release, he said.

Dean Wawers, a private investigator hired by the defense, testified during the sentencing hearing that on the day of the incident Dean's employer directed her to drive a truck she had never driven before that had an automatic transmission she was not familiar with.

Wawers said Dean asked her employer if she could switch to a vehicle she was more used to, but she wasn't allowed to.

At the time of the crash, Dean's record included at least five convictions for driving after suspension of her license and a DWI conviction.

McBeth said last fall that Dean's driver's license was valid at the time of the crash.