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Man who left tow truck on interstate before deadly crash gets 2 more driving under suspension charges

If convicted, Mario Butler could face up to a year in jail for the Ward County charges. Cass County prosecutors are deciding whether he should face charges for the Tower City crash that left one dead and three seriously injured.

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Mario Butler
Ward County Jail
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FARGO — A Minot man who left his tow truck on an interstate in Cass County before a vehicle crashed into it has been accused twice of driving with a suspended license since the crash, a pattern that dates back nearly a decade.

Mario Dewayne Butler, 43, faces two Class A misdemeanors in Ward County District Court — one each for traffic stops on April 1 and May 31. The two charges would make for his fourth and fifth driving under suspension counts in five years in North Dakota if convicted, meaning he could face almost a year in jail for each count.

Prosecutors are reviewing whether Butler should face charges for his part in a Jan. 22 crash near Tower City, North Dakota. After experiencing mechanical issues around 9 p.m. that day, Butler left his 1997 International flatbed tow truck in the right westbound lane of Interstate 94 about 3 miles east of the small town, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

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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

Butler had called a tow truck but received a ride from a motorist before assistance arrived, state troopers said. It is unknown if emergency lights on his vehicle were activated.

Timothy Hagerott, of Bismarck, struck Butler’s tow truck from behind with a 2017 GMC Yukon, a news release said. The crash killed Hagerott’s wife, Kelli. It also seriously injured Hagerott and his two daughters.


Butler’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, according to state records obtained by The Forum. Butler has six driving under suspension convictions on his record since 2013 in North Dakota.

In all instances, he either got time served or no jail time.

Officers said Emily Eckroth was disrespectful and disregarded commands while they investigated her husband on suspicion of driving under the influence in Bismarck. Ryan Eckroth was not cited.

He also has multiple counts of driving without vehicle insurance.

It’s unclear why Butler’s license was suspended.

Timothy Hagerott also appears to be under investigation. He told investigators he heard or felt his phone vibrate before the crash and looked down “for a second” to check the notification, a search warrant said.

When he looked up, the tow truck was directly in front of him, the warrant said. It also noted there was no evidence of Timothy Hagerott hitting his brakes.

State troopers investigated information about his potential cellphone use moments before the crash, the warrant said. The warrant did not disclose the details of the data obtained.

Timothy Hagerott has no traffic violations or criminal charges on his North Dakota record. He and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott are cousins.


Cass County prosecutors confirmed this week that their office recently received investigative documents on the crash. They said they plan to meet with state troopers to discuss the investigation in the coming weeks.

A decision on whether to pursue charges and against whom should come shortly after that, prosecutors said.

Butler did not return a message left by The Forum.

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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