War Veteran Sentenced For Fatal Drunken Driving Crash

A man was sentenced Tuesday to 13 years in prison for a drunken-driving interstate crash that killed three people last October.

Bradley Erickson was sentenced in Dane County Circuit Court. He was also sentenced to 15 years of extended supervision after serving his prison term.

Prosecutors said Erickson was driving drunk when he rear-ended a disabled vehicle early on Oct. 7, 2010, on Interstate 39/90/94 in the town of Burke. Three people were killed in the crash. The victims’ car was stopped in the median to fix a flat tire.

Prosecutors said Erickson blew a 0.15 blood-alcohol limit shortly after the crash.

Killed in the crash were two prospective students at the University of Minnesota — 19-year-old Marcus Johnson of Milwaukee and 23-year-old Wilfredo Ugarte of Puerto Rico. Also killed was Elysia Rapp, 20, of Racine, a student at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minn. A fourth person in the car, Carlos Rios, was injured.

At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Rios recalled changing a tire along the interstate just as Erickson’s vehicle crashed into their car from behind.

“As I get up, I see a car,” Rios said at Tuesday’s sentencing. “And just before I could do anything, I jumped up.”

Rios told an officer he saw the vehicle that hit them “coming very fast” and thought it was traveling “at least 90 mph,” according to the complaint. Rios said he shouted to alert his friends and jumped over the median/barrier before impact.

Family members of the victims spoke at the sentencing about their loss.

“My new normal consists of a numb life existence,” said Darcy Hargrove, the mother of Rapp.

“He was my pride and joy,” said Franchon Johnson, Marcus Johnson’s mother, never looking away while addressing Erickson.

Erickson, 32, pleaded no contest earlier this year to four felony charges, including three counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and a charge of operating while intoxicated causing injury.

Erickson served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq and said he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The victims’ families questioned why the veteran did not find treatment.

“If he really needed help and had PTSD, why didn’t someone see to it?” said Corie Hargrove, Rapp’s stepfather.

“I would do anything to bring the victims back,” said a tearful Erickson. “If I could trade places with them, I would do so, happily.”

Judge Julie Genovese acknowledged Erickson’s PTSD as a factor to consider when determining a sentence.

“By all accounts, we have a person of generally strong character who served his country,” Genovese said. “And because of the effects of war, acted in an uncharacteristic way resulting in the tragic deaths of three people.”

“There is no way to make up for what I’ve done,” Erickson said. “But I will spend the rest of my life trying.”

The judge spoke in detail about Erickson’s service in Iraq, pointing out his time overseas was during one of the most violent times of the war.

Erickson vowed to use his story as an example, with goals to speak with young people and other veterans about the dangers of drunken driving.