The Minnetrista man whose daughter died after his SUV broke through the ice on Lake Minnetonka in January pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of criminal vehicular homicide in a deal that will allow him to avoid jail.
Jonathan L. Markle, 41, had a blood alcohol content of .13 two hours after the car went into the water, investigators have said. He had attempted to drive out on the ice between Halstead Bay and Priest Bay.
After the vehicle plunged into the water, Markle, his wife Amanda, and their 2-year-old Isabelle, were saved. Eight-month-old Tabitha was pulled from the icy water 15 minutes later, but she died at a hospital three days later.
Markle was sentenced to 57 months in prison, but that sentence is stayed if he sticks to a five-year probation deal that includes giving 100 speeches on the dangers of drinking and driving, WCCO reports.
“A young child died through the recklessness of her father,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said, WCCO reports. “These are very, very sad cases.”
The Star Tribune reports that Hennepin County Judge Jay Quam stressed to Markle that he was responsible for his child's death: “If there’s a hell on earth, Mr. Markle, you’re in it. You’ve created it and you’re in your own prison."
According to the deal terms, Markle also must write a letter to the two people at the scene who helped with the attempted rescue, KARE 11 reports. Other conditions prohibit him from using alcohol or drugs, and he must continue alcohol treatment.
There were at least 14 separate incidents in which cars or snowmobiles broke through the ice on Lake Minnetonka last winter, Patch reported.
A 31-year-old and his 87-year-old grandmother from Maple Grove died after their car plunged into the water in February.