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Nashwauk Man charged in hit-and-run that killed toddler near Nashwauk

Man, 38, charged with multiple crimes after striking 16-year-old girl pushing stroller on Highway 65

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A 2-year-old in a stroller was killed on Thursday outside Nashwauk after the boy and a 16-year-old girl, his babysitter, were struck from behind by a pickup driven by a 38-year-old man, who fled the scene and was later taken into custody and charged with multiple crimes in Itasca County.

The boy, Logan Dean Klennert, of Nashwauk, was pronounced dead at the scene, the Minnesota State Patrol said in a news release Thursday night.

Jake Michael Place, of Nashwauk, was taken into custody Thursday and on Friday was formally charged with seven felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide-hit and run, criminal vehicular operation-great bodily harm, criminal vehicular operation-substantial bodily harm and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. He was also charged with a misdemeanor for failure to stop for a collision.

Klennert was being pushed in a stroller on the southbound shoulder of Minnesota Highway 65 in Northeast Itasca Township — 15 miles north of Nashwauk — when a southbound pickup driven by Place crossed onto the shoulder, striking the pedestrian and stroller from behind, the State Patrol said.

The crash, near milepost 188, occurred at 1:17 p.m. Thursday.

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According to the criminal complaint filed Friday, Place fled the scene and was located near the city of Nashwauk at about 2:30 p.m. when a Minnesota Power helicopter working on nearby utilities reported a truck that matched the suspect's vehicle. An Itasca County deputy stationed himself at a gas station on Highway 65 and pulled Place over when he passed by, the complaint said.

Place told officers he was heading to the "cop shop" in Nashwauk to talk with police after hearing officers were looking for his vehicle, the complaint said. Place told officers that he "struck a deer or something." During this time, Place's wife drove up to the traffic stop and told officers that Place told her he had fallen asleep while driving and "hit a mailbox or something," the complaint said.

The complaint notes officers observed that "Place's pupils were constricted, he appeared dirty and disheveled, and his cheeks were sunken." Place then failed a test for driving under the influence. State troopers and Itasca County Sheriff's Deputies arrested Place and he was taken to Grand Itasca Hospital where a search warrant for the draw of his blood was executed.

The girl, from Nashwauk, was transported to a Duluth hospital with non-life threatening, but significant, injuries, the State Patrol said. The complaint said the girl sustained multiple broken bones and may require the amputation of a foot.

The Nashwauk Police Department, Nashwauk Ambulance and Fire, Keewatin Police Department, North Air Care and Life Link 3 responded to the incident.

In 2018, Place was charged with leaving the scene of an accident when the dump truck he was driving struck a pickup that had swerved out of the way to avoid hitting a deer. According to that complaint, Place stopped to check on the driver of the pickup but then drove away because he did not have the correct class of driver's license to drive the dump truck. That charge was later dismissed, court records show.

Place is currently being held at the Itasca County Jail with bail set at $400,000 without conditions and $200,000 if conditions are met.

Place is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 12 at 9 a.m.

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Jake Michael Place

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