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Cohasset man charged with vehicular homicide

A Cohasset man admitted to having approximately 15 alcoholic drinks in the hours before he crashed his ATV into a power pole, killing a friend, according to court documents.

Authorities said 21-year-old Joseph Jeffrey Riley registered a blood-alcohol concentration nearly twice the legal limit after the incident that killed Dylan Robert Christy and injured Alexander Michael Rajala, both 21 and of Grand Rapids.

Riley allegedly told deputies he swerved to avoid a deer when the crash occurred shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday on County Road 459 south of Cohasset. He acknowledged that he spent the night drinking at a number of bars around Grand Rapids, according to a criminal complaint.

Riley was arraigned Tuesday in State District Court in Grand Rapids on a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide and a gross misdemeanor count of criminal vehicular operation. He was released from custody with a number of conditions.

According to the complaint:

The Itasca County Sheriff's Office was dispatched to the crash at 2:17 a.m. and found the three men. A deputy and an ambulance crew attended to Christy, who was airlifted to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

A sergeant who spoke with Riley noted that he appeared to have a "strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech and poor balance." He admitted to drinking prior to the crash.

Riley said he had recently purchased the ATV, and that Rajala and Christy were seated behind him. He said he had swerved to miss a deer and lost control of the vehicle.

A preliminary breath-test at the scene placed Riley's blood-alcohol level at .157. A blood sample was later obtained through a search warrant, but results were not immediately available.

Riley later consented to an interview at the Itasca County Jail. He stated that he and Rajala went to the Dutch Room around 8 p.m., having two beers and leaving after an hour. They then went to the Ground Round, where he had another drink, before going to the Pickled Loon, where he had four shots and about six beers. Christy joined them at that point, Riley said. The three then went to Zorbaz and he had two more drinks.

Finally, Riley said, they went to his parents' residence near Cohasset and decided to go for an ATV ride. He stated that they "did not make it very far" before they crashed.

Riley was uninjured. Rajala, who suffered a leg strain and some bruises and scrapes, was treated at Grand Itasca Hospital.

Riley has only petty misdemeanor convictions on his record, including traffic tickets, possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and minor consumption of alcohol.

He's scheduled to be back in court May 28.

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