A central Minnesota woman admitted Friday to driving under the influence of alcohol in a November 2020 crash that killed her 3-year-old son in Cloquet.
Misty Louise Mattinas, 27, of Baxter, pleaded guilty to a felony count of criminal vehicular homicide at a hearing in State District Court in Carlton.
Authorities said Mattinas admitted to having several drinks and looking at the GPS on her cellphone before she veered off the road, splitting her 2004 Chevrolet Impala in half near Spring Lake Road and White Pine Trail on the afternoon of Nov. 10.
According to a criminal complaint, police found Mattinas holding her son, Dennis Solis, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Also injured was her daughter, 5-year-old Mia Solis.
A witness in another car told authorities she was driving east on White Pine Trail when the Impala passed her at a high rate of speed, well in excess of the 30-mph limit, according to the complaint. The witness then came upon the crash scene and called 911.
Officers reported a "strong odor of alcohol" coming from Mattinas' car and discovered multiple empty bottles of alcohol in and around the vehicle, the complaint stated. The defendant also "strongly smelled of alcohol."
Mattinas and the 5-year-old were transported to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Mia had a large facial abrasion and multiple cuts and bruises, the complaint said. Police said both children appeared to have been properly secured in safety seats.
Mattinas reportedly told officers at the hospital that she had been distracted by the GPS on her phone at the time of the crash. She said she had consumed cough syrup earlier and that she had been drinking Fireball whiskey, according to the complaint.
Once Mattinas was cleared for release, she was taken to the Carlton County Law Enforcement Center for a Mirandized statement. She allegedly told investigators she had the cough syrup at her mother's residence in Brainerd before driving to another relative's house in Cloquet, drinking a large can of Twisted Tea along the way.
"Ms. Mattinas said she is not allowed to drink at her mother's house, so she regularly drinks while driving and then places the empty bottles under her seat," the complaint stated, adding that she acknowledged struggling with her alcohol addiction.
A sample taken from Mattinas about three hours after the crash revealed a blood-alcohol concentration of .125, according to an amended complaint filed Sept. 28. The state's legal limit is .08.
In entering the plea, Mattinas dropped a challenge to the admissibility of her statements in court. Friday's hearing had originally been scheduled for that purpose after the issue was first raised by defense attorney Elizabeth Polling in July.
The plea agreement with the Carlton County Attorney's Office allows prosecutors to seek a guideline, four-year prison term, while the defense is free to argue for a departure to probation. Twelve other charges will be dismissed.
Judge Rebekka Stumme scheduled sentencing for Dec. 13.