Mother accused of Facebook messaging before crash that killed daughter, nieces

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ELLSWORTH, Wis. — A Wisconsin mother faces negligence charges after allegedly using Facebook Messenger behind the wheel — just 19 seconds before calling police to report a deadly crash.

On December 12, 2013, Kari Milberg was involved in a wreck that killed her 11-year-old daughter and five-year-old nieces. Prosecutors say she was using her cellphone seconds before the crash.

milberg3

Kari Milberg

On Tuesday, Milberg’s defense picked away at Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Doug Ducklow — suggesting the tires on Milberg’s car were too worn to be safe on any pavement.

“I wasn’t qualified to give an opinion about the tires,” Ducklow said.

Jurors then heard a recording of the truck drivers involved. Two brothers said conditions were slippery — saying it appeared Milberg’s car lost control.

Kari Milberg

“There was snow on the road?”

“Yes,” Ducklow said.

“He told you in particular that he observed car slide in the snow on the road?”

“That’s what he said. Yes,” Ducklow said.

Kari Milberg

The prosecution is out to prove that Milberg was Facebook messaging on her phone moments before the crash, and drove into the path of an oncoming truck — killing her 11-year-old daughter and young nieces.

“I was familiar with the chat messenger when it popped up. Couldn’t tell you any names or anything that was written, but it appears something was written in there,” Aaron Hansen, investigator said.

Hansen found Milberg’s phone four months later, after snow had melted. He described a Facebook chat log — detailing a string of messages between Milberg and a man named Jason McKenzie. They were planning lunch and joking about being nervous.

When McKenzie took the stand, he was uncooperative and couldn’t recall even messaging Milberg.

“I just heard there was an accident…” McKenzie said.

Kari Milberg

The evidence shows the final exchange between the two came 19 seconds before the 911 call regarding the crash.

A state mechanical inspector looked at Milberg’s car and said the brakes and steering all worked properly. He did say the tires were badly worn — but were still legal.

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1 Comment

  • michaeljmcfadden

    People blow a gasket over the “health risks” of someone smoking a cigarette in a car with another person. But if you put the figures from the EPA Report for that sort of health risk up against the figures for cell-phone/driving deaths it’s interesting. You could drive around with someone smoking in a car with you and with the windows largely rolled up for close to 13,000 hours and STILL be safer than being in a car where the driver engaged in just a SINGLE episode of text messaging/chatting during a one hour drive.

    Normally I criticize antismoking campaigners for their ridiculous exaggerations of risks, but in this one case, the fear they’ve managed to inject into people’s minds, as false as it might be, could be useful in addressing an activity that is literally many thousands of times as dangerous.

    – MJM