Jake Place

Jake M. Place walked out of the Itasca County Courthouse in Grand Rapids on Monday morning.

Place, under indictment on charges of killing a 2-year-old Logan Dean Klennert and injuring his 16-year-old aunt Alexia N. Carroll in a hit-and-run crash on Aug. 1 near Nashwauk, was granted a public defender.

Place, 38, of Nashwauk is scheduled to make his next court appearance beside his attorney lawyer at 9 a.m. on Aug. 19 in Grand Rapids.

Earlier this month, Itasca County Attorney Matti Adam accused Place of being under the influence of drugs and fled the scene of the fatal crash Aug. 1 on Highway 65 north of Nashwauk. The day after the incident, she filed seven criminal charges against him, including two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, four felony counts of criminal vehicular operation and one gross misdemeanor count of failing to stop for a collision.

During that court hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to set bail at $400,000 without conditions, and $200,000 with conditions, which demand he make all court hearings, refrain from using drugs and alcohol and stay away from family members of the deceased. His release has infuriated people across the region who have been sharing their disdain on social media pages.

A Hibbing citizen has since created a GoFundMe account to help the Klennert family raise $25,000 for the toddler’s funeral costs and ongoing medical care for his aunt. As of Monday afternoon, the site showed that 342 people had donated $18,008.

According to the criminal complaint, Minnesota state troopers say the girl from Nashwauk was walking southbound and pushing the toddler in the stroller on the right shoulder of Highway 65, north of Buck Lake. The two were hit from behind by a southbound truck that crossed the shoulder line and then immediately fled.

The toddler died at the scene and the teenager was transported to a Duluth hospital with significant but non-life threatening injuries, including broken bones. Physicians reported that they may need to amputate one of her feet.

The state patrol received a call at 1:17 p.m. on Aug. 1 regarding a hit and run of two pedestrians on the highway, before dispatching Sgt. Alan Ryan and Lt. Mike Eck who searched for a red 1999 Dodge truck with damage to the passenger side mirror and headlight.

At 2:30 p.m. that day, the troopers learned that the pilot of a Minnesota Power helicopter working on utilities in the area had spotted the truck in question. An Itasca County sergeant parked at a nearby gas station, spotted the vehicle and pulled over the suspect. Law enforcement say that Place admitted to being involved in a crash that day but thought it was “a deer or something.”

Place told officers he was alone throughout the incident, drove home, and was on his way to the police station after learning authorities were searching for his vehicle. While officers spoke with Place, his wife arrived and told them that he had said he’d fallen asleep at the wheel and believed he had “hit a mailbox or something” along the highway.

Authorities on scene described Place as “dirty and disheveled” with constricted pupils. He was put through standard field sobriety tests, placed under arrest and transported to Grand Itasca Hospital in Grand Rapids, where authorities executed a search warrant for a blood draw.

State troopers were assisted by the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office, Nashwauk and Keewatin police departments, Nashwauk Ambulance, Nashwauk Fire, North Air Care and Life Link 3.

Place has a history of driving and substance use convictions dating back to 2009, including: three counts of felony fifth-degree controlled substance possession, one felony second-degree sale of controlled substances, and a misdemeanor DWI, according to the complaint. In February, Place was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of texting and use of an electronic device while driving. He also has charges pending for a seatbelt violation and a restricted license violation.


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