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Charges: Iron Range man triple legal limit in fatal crash

Michael Miller was allegedly heading home from a bar on his 40th birthday when he struck and killed an oncoming motorist, Joni Dahl.

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VIRGINIA — A man's blood-alcohol concentration was more than three times the legal limit when he crashed into an oncoming car, killing its driver, according to charges filed Tuesday.

Michael Kenneth Miller.jpg
Michael Kenneth Miller

Michael Kenneth Miller, of rural Virginia, was arraigned in State District Court on a charge of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Joni Dahl, 39, of rural Eveleth.

The collision occurred at approximately 11:30 p.m. Friday on County Highway 21, just west of the intersection with Minnesota Highway 135, in rural Embarrass.

It was Miller's 40th birthday.

A criminal complaint states that officers found Dahl dead in a Ford Fusion that had gone into the ditch. Miller, who was driving a Chevrolet Silverado, was walking with a limp.

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Investigators said they determined that Miller was westbound when his truck went across the center line, striking Dahl's eastbound car behind the front driver's side wheel, "crushing her and causing severe trauma to the front left side of her head."

The complaint states that Miller had watery eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol. He reportedly said he was on his way home from a bar, where he was drinking "vodka cranberries."

A member of the Embarrass Fire Department told a deputy that he had seen Miller at another area bar around 2 p.m. that day, the complaint notes.

A preliminary breath test placed Miller's blood-alcohol level at 0.247, well in excess of the 0.08 limit for driving, according to the complaint. A blood draw was taken pursuant to a search warrant; results were still pending.

Miller was taken to a Duluth hospital and treated for injuries before being booked into the St. Louis County Jail on Sunday.

Attorney Carver Richards represented Miller at his arraignment, saying he has no criminal record, is fully employed and supported by many family members and friends. He asked for the defendant to have an opportunity to be placed on supervised release and begin treatment.

"I don't have any doubts about him being a danger to himself or anyone else," Richards told the court. "He is severely disabled as a result of the accident. It would be a severe burden to sit in jail and try to raise bail."

Judge Bhupesh Pattni ordered a chemical-dependency assessment but set bail at $300,000, citing the severity of the case. He indicated conditions of release could be revisited when Miller appears in court again on Monday.

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See also
The 58-year-old man had not been identified early Tuesday afternoon.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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