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Boater was drinking before crash that killed neighbor on Otter Tail Lake, charges say

Charles Gramith

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. — A boater accused of causing the death of his neighbor this weekend on Otter Tail Lake had been drinking beer before he crashed into a parked boat at a high rate of speed, criminal charges allege.

Otter Tail County prosecutors filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday, Aug. 25, against Charles Willis Gramith, of Roseville, Minn., in connection to the Saturday afternoon drowning of 52-year-old Neil Baker of Elysian, Minn. Gramith faces three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

Gramith, 72, was arrested Saturday after the boat crash near 30529 Minnesota Highway 78 on the northeast side of Otter Tail Lake, roughly 80 miles southeast of Fargo.

Baker’s wife said she was helping her husband tie up their boat when she saw Gramith heading toward them, the complaint said. She yelled, “He’s coming in hot,” before Gramith’s boat collided with theirs, according to the complaint.


The collision sent Baker and his wife into the lake, the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office said. Baker was later found in the water with fatal injuries, according to the criminal complaint. An autopsy report revealed head trauma and lacerations caused instant death.

A sheriff's deputy said he could smell a moderate odor of alcohol coming from Gramith, the complaint said. Gramith said he was on a number of medications, including blood thinners, according to the complaint.

Gramith also told authorities he consumed two beers in the boat and one earlier, the complaint alleged.

A preliminary breath test showed Gramith had a blood alcohol level of 0.051% before he was arrested, the complaint said. The blood-alcohol limit for operating a boat in Minnesota is 0.08%.

One of the felony charges against Gramith was related to allegedly operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, another stemmed from alleged interference from medication, and a third accused him of allegedly causing a death due to negligence, Otter Tail County Attorney Michelle Eldien said.

Each charge carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

Gramith posted a $2,000 cash bond to be released from the Otter Tail County Jail on Tuesday. Court records did not list an attorney for him.


Gramith is the neighbor directly north of the Bakers' lake property, according to the sheriff's office.

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