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Cremers charged in fire captain’s traffic death; D.A. says blood draw taken too late

0307_cremers

Samuel Cremers

MADISON (WKOW) – A Columbus man appeared in Dane County court Thursday on a felony charge in connection to a Lake Mills fire captain’s traffic death, with late testing of the man’s blood helping to rule out a drunk driving homicide charge.

28-year-old Samuel Cremers was released on a signature bond after appearing on the rare charge of knowingly operating a motor vehicle while suspended and causing death.  Assistant Dane County District Attorney William Brown said Cremers is only the second person to be charged with this crime in the county.

Authorities say off-duty Fire Capt. Chris Truman died after being hit in a collision on the Beltline Dec. 31, 2018, as Truman helped a stranded motorist on the snow-covered highway.

A criminal complaint states Cremer told officers he was driving well below the highway’s speed limit when he swerved to the shoulder to try to avoid what appeared to be an accident and became involved in a collision.

A probable cause affidavit to support Cremers’s arrest for operating while intoxicated says Cremers had alcohol on his breath, failed a portion of a field sobriety test, and had a breath test result of .079, just below the state’s legal limit of .08.

But Brown says Cremers’ alcohol content through later testing of his blood was nearly half of that value at .04.  Brown says Cremers’s blood sample was obtained four hours after police’s initial contact with him.

District Attorney Ismael Ozanne tells 27 News the law provides a three-hour window to obtain a sample that’s presumed accurate for the purposes of a drunk driving prosecution.  Ozanne says he does not know why Monona Police did not obtain the sample within the time period.

Monona Police Detective Sergeant Ryan Losby concedes the testing was done outside the window of time and the delay impacts prosecution.

“If we would have had more personnel available during that time frame we may have been closer to the three hour mark,”  Losby tells 27 News.

Losby says the hazardous weather and Truman’s death in the collision also led to delay.  Losby says officers were needed to help close a Beltline portion, and the fatality required extensive interviews.

Losby also says there are cases when experts are used to approximate a blood alcohol level.

But Losby says there was consultation with prosecutors, and a decision was made to decline the more serious charge of drunk driving homicide in favor of the rare, less serious charge.

“We did not want to lose this case,” Losby tells 27 News.

Even though Cremers’ charge involves no alcohol factor, Court Commissioner Scott McAndrew ordered a continued ban on both Cremer’s drinking and his driving as bail conditions.

The charge Cremers faces involves a maximum possible prison sentence of six years in prison if convicted.  The maximum possible prison sentence for homicide while operating under the influence charge is more than three times longer.

Cremers left the courthouse Thursday without comment.

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