No charges in Bemidji State student's death after party
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- No charges will be filed in the hypothermia death of a 20-year-old Bemidji State University student in December, law enforcement officials have determined.
BEMIDJI, Minn. - No charges will be filed in the hypothermia death of a 20-year-old Bemidji State University student in December, law enforcement officials have determined.
Sandra Lommen, a BSU nursing student from Bloomington, Minn., was found lying on the ground in Bemidji on Dec. 10. She was unconscious and showed signs of intoxication and hypothermia when emergency medical personnel arrived. She was later pronounced dead at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. A later autopsy listed her cause of death as hypothermia.
Bemidji police said later that Lommen was leaving a nearby house party at about 2 a.m. and planned to walk to her dorm on the BSU campus about a mile-and-a-half from where she was found. Authorities believe she fell into a creek and then was overcome by the cold as she continued to walk home.
Since Lommen was under 21, the investigation into her death included discovering how she became intoxicated and if those who provided alcohol to her could possibly face criminal charges, Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said.
However, late last week the Beltrami County Attorney's Office informed police investigators there was was not enough evidence to charge anyone in the case, Mastin said Thursday.
Investigators interviewed people who were at the party that night, and even subpoenaed social media posts, such as Facebook and Twitter, from partygoers in hopes of possibly identifying those who supplied alcohol to Lommen, he said.
Those subpoenas can take time because investigators have to go through the proper legal channels with private companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to obtain the posts, Mastin said.
After combing through all the interviews and posts they obtained, investigators turned the case over to the county attorney's office, but they determined there wasn't "one person we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt" who supplied the alcohol to Lommen, he said.
While the decision not to pursue charges was understandable based on the evidence, Mastin said underage drinking is a serious issue and people need to be held accountable for their actions.
"Someone provided alcohol to a minor, and that minor died," Mastin said. "As a parent, I would want someone who did that to be held accountable."
In a second alcohol-related incident in January, a 19-year-old BSU student was found in the snow about a block from campus after being outside for some time, officials said. She was later transported to a Fargo hospital and survived the incident. Mastin said that case remains under investigation.