ST. PAUL — A dump truck driver from Hastings pleaded guilty Thursday, Dec. 5, to causing a crash that killed a mother and daughter and then leaving the scene after a massive boulder slammed into their car in Rosemount.

Prosecutors say surveillance video captured from businesses before the crash show that several rocks in the back of Joseph Paul Czeck’s truck were not secure. Karen Christiansen, 67, and Jena Christiansen, 32, died on July 9, 2018.

Czeck, 34, pleaded guilty in Dakota County District Court to two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide.

“We are pleased this individual has taken responsibility for this tragic crime which claimed two lives in our community,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a Thursday statement.

That was not the case shortly after the crash, prosecutors say. Czeck knew the boulder — estimated to weigh more than 1,100 pounds — fell off his dump truck and caused the crash, but drove away and did not return to the scene, according to a criminal complaint.

According to the plea agreement, which is subject to Judge Arlene Perkkio’s approval during sentencing on Jan. 17, Czeck will serve 10 months in jail to be served in two segments — a “sentence to serve” program and work release. A prison sentence will be stayed and he will be on probation for up to 10 years.

What happened

The boulder became dislodged from Czeck’s truck after he crossed over railroad tracks while driving south on Rich Valley Boulevard near 125th Street, according to the complaint.

It bounced along the road, crossed the center lane and crashed through the windshield of a Toyota Avalon headed north on Rich Valley Boulevard.

Karen Christiansen, who was driving, and her daughter, who was in the front seat, both died at the scene from blunt force head trauma. They were Shoreview residents.

Video showed Czeck drove away but stopped within a mile and parked in a driveway on the west side of Rich Valley Boulevard, the complaint said.

After sitting in the truck for about two minutes, he moved to another nearby spot and remained there for about five minutes, according to the complaint. At one point, the video shows Czeck walking around the outside of the truck.

Czeck drove away before stopping nearby for about two more minutes and proceeding south on Rich Valley Boulevard, the complaint said.

Investigators visited construction sites in the area. At a site off Minnesota 3 in the Inver Grove Heights-Eagan area, a contractor identified the truck as belonging to Czeck Services, a landscaping company, and said Czeck had been there the day of the crash picking up boulders, according to the complaint.

The crash prompted the Dakota County sheriff’s office in July to add a full-time commercial vehicle inspector who is on the lookout for truck drivers with unsecured loads and other safety violations.

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