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Man who abandoned tow truck on I-94 before fatal crash was not licensed to drive at time

Mario Butler has lengthy history of driving with suspended license, court docs revealed. That included a traffic stop roughly two months before Timothy Hagerott rear-ended Butler's abandoned tow truck.

Hagerott go fund me photo.PNG
A photograph of the Hagerott family from an online fundraiser set up after Kelli Hagerott, 43, was killed in a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 94 near Tower City, North Dakota.
Family photo via GoFundMe
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FARGO — A Minot man who troopers say abandoned his tow truck in the driving lane of Interstate 94 near Tower City before another vehicle crashed into it has a lengthy history of driving with a suspended license, including on the day of the fatal crash.

Mario Dewayne Butler, 43, has six counts of driving while his license was suspended or revoked on his North Dakota criminal record. The misdemeanor charges date back to 2013.

He also was cited three times for driving without liability insurance, according to traffic records.

Butler's most recent citation happened less than two months before Timothy Hagerott, 42, of Bismarck, drove his 2017 GMC Yukon into Butler’s 1997 International flatbed tow truck on I-94 about 2 miles east of Tower City. Butler left his tow truck around 9 p.m. Jan. 22 in the right westbound lane of the interstate after experiencing mechanical issues, according to a North Dakota Highway Patrol report.

Butler had called another tow truck to come help him but then got a ride with a passing motorist, according to the report.

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The crash killed Hagerott’s wife, Kelli. Timothy Hagerott and two passengers, a 14-year-old girl and a 9-year-old girl, were treated for serious injuries at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, according to the report.

The crash remains under investigation, said Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind. Alcohol and speed were not factors in the case, but investigators are looking into all aspects of the crash to determine if charges are warranted, he added.

Niewind did confirm Butler’s criminal history, which includes a Nov. 27 stop in McHenry County west of Velva, North Dakota. He was cited for speeding, driving under suspension and driving without liability insurance.

Butler pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to driving with a suspended license, according to court documents. He was ordered to get a valid driver’s license within 60 days of the guilty plea to have that charge dismissed, but Butler's driver’s record obtained by The Forum through the North Dakota Department of Transportation revealed his license was still suspended as of Feb. 9.

In another case, Butler pleaded guilty in 2018 to driving with a suspended license and fleeing police for a Nov. 17, 2017, incident in Carrington, North Dakota. He was also uninsured. A criminal complaint gives few details about the stop, but he was sentenced to 360 days of probation.

Butler was also cited for driving with a suspended license in June 2017, September 2016, July 2014, May 2013, according to court records.

The Forum called a number listed as Butler’s on his most recent citation to ask why his license was initially suspended and if he had any comments about the crash. A message left by a reporter was not returned as of Thursday, Feb. 10.

Weather conditions were clear with scattered ice on the interstate at the time of the crash, according to the Highway Patrol. Troopers said they don’t know whether Butler turned on his emergency lights after his tow truck broke down, according to a court document requesting a search warrant for Timothy Hagerott’s cellphone data.

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Timothy Hagerott told investigators he heard or felt his phone vibrate while driving, according to a search warrant declaration. He looked down “for a second” and when he looked up, the tow truck was right in front of him, the declaration said.

There is no evidence that he used his brakes before the crash, state troopers said.

Data from the phone has been obtained, but public documents did not state what specifically was found.

Related Topics: ACCIDENTS
April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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