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Russel Doucette

Southern Minnesota man to serve 41 months in Renville County farm site death

GRANITE FALLS, Minn. — Russel Allen Doucette, 39, of Franklin, will serve a 41-month sentence for the death of Randy Lee Oletzke, 59.

During a court hearing Tuesday, Dec. 17, in Granite Falls, District Judge Dwayne Knutsen sentenced Doucette for a second-degree manslaughter conviction. He ordered Doucette to serve a minimum of 27 and two-thirds months in confinement, and the remaining 13 and one-third months on supervised release. He granted credit for 41 days served.

The sentencing guidelines recommend a range of 41 months to 58 months in prison for his offense of second-degree manslaughter — culpable negligence.

Doucette is accused of running over Oletzke at the farm place they shared in rural Renville County on the night of July 28, 2017. A jury found him guilty of the second-degree manslaughter charge on Nov. 21 but acquitted him on a charge of criminal vehicular manslaughter.

Attorneys Brooke Borkenhagen and Erica Allex argued that this was not a typical case. “We all know this was a terrible accident,” Borkenhagen told the court, stating that her client was not an aggressor in the incident.

Doucette had arrived at the farm house he shared with Oletzke to discover a scowl on Oletzke’s face. He knew that Oletzke was mad at him for not performing a farm chore, according to statements he later made to authorities.

Borkenhagen said Doucette was “frantically trying to leave” the farm place and under “duress.” He was in "flight mode." He had only a “split second” to react and did not anticipate that Oletzke would open the door of the vehicle as he was attempting to drive away, she told the court.

She said her client called 911 and reported the incident when he realized what had happened, and that he cooperated fully in the investigation. She said Doucette regarded Oletzke as a friend and father figure.

Prosecutor Glen Jacobsen with the Renville County Attorney's Office asked the court for a 58-month prison sentence. He told the court the death was “no accident.” Doucette’s actions behind the wheel of the pickup truck were the direct cause of Oletzke’s death. A jury found him guilty of the highest level of negligence under criminal law, Jacobsen said.

Doucette had used the words “floored it, losing control and punched it” in telling authorities of his actions behind the wheel, Jacobsen said. Doucette also spoke of Oletzke being in harm's way, and obviously knew the risk present, the prosecuting attorney told the court.

During the sentencing, the judge pointed out that when Doucette realized Oletzke was mad at him, he could have simply walked out of the house and down the driveway to avoid any problems. He could have taken a number of actions, such as locking the doors to the truck he entered, to avoid what happened. There was no indication that Oletzke intended to do anything more than prevent Doucette from taking a pickup truck that did not belong to him and was in need of repairs, the judge stated.

“How he handled the vehicle is what caused Mr. Oletzke’s death,” said the judge. “Both made bad decisions that night. Mr. Oletzke paid with his life. Mr. Doucette is still here.”

According to the criminal complaint, the incident began when Doucette drove the pickup truck out of the farmyard and Oletzke tried to stop him. Doucette told authorities that Oletzke was standing in front of the truck when he looped around the yard in the vehicle and drove away at a high rate of speed.

An autopsy found that the victim had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 at the time of death, or twice the legal limit for driving. Doucette said he had not been drinking prior to arriving at the farmhouse. The judge pointed out that Doucette was in the better position as the sober party to appreciate the risk that existed during the incident.

The loss of Oletzke remains the source of much grief for family members, his sister Jayne DeGroote told the court. Family members of Oletzke had provided victim-impact statements to the judge previously, when a plea agreement had originally been reached in the case but later withdrawn.

She told the court on Tuesday that her brother was a father of two sons. One has the support of a loving wife in his grief. The other is having an especially difficult time without his father’s support and the care that Oletzke provided a grandchild. DeGroote said she continues to cry at random times and struggle with her grief. She called Doucette’s trial “the three worst days of my life.”

Doucette did not offer a statement at sentencing, but during the arguments over the request for a downward departure, he offered an apology.

“(There’s) no way I can truly express how sorry I am,” he said.

He asked the judge to consider a sentence that would allow him to perform community service in Oletzke’s memory, rather than “wasting taxpayer time and sitting in prison.” Doing community service, he said, “is the only way I can truly honor Randy’s memory.”

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