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Gunderson pleads guilty to vehicular homicide, faces 15 years in prison

Sarah Stultz, Albert Lea Tribune –

NORTHWOOD, Iowa — The man charged with the fatal hit-and-run of a young girl boarding a school bus last May will likely be sentenced to 15 years in prison for his crime.

Aaron Dwayne Gunderson, 32, of Northwood on Friday pleaded guilty in Worth County District Court to one count of vehicular homicide involving reckless driving and one count of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of 7-year-old Kadyn Jade Halverson, or rural Kensett.

The plea came as part of an agreement between his lawyer and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case. Both parties recommended a 15-year prison sentence, with Gunderson serving a mandatory minimum of seven years, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

A third more serious charge of vehicular homicide while intoxicated was dismissed.

Sentencing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 27.

Gunderson was arrested May 10, 2011, by Worth County Sheriff’s Office deputies after striking and killing 7-year-old Kadyn Jade Halverson on Worth County Road S52 as she walked to a stopped school bus in rural Worth County.

Gunderson failed to stop for the flashing lights and extended stop sign of the school bus and struck Kadyn while driving 60 mph before continuing southbound, without stopping at the scene of the crash.

Kadyn was thrown more than 60 feet into the west ditch of the road and died at the scene of the crash.

The investigation found he had more than 3,000 feet to notice the bus and witnesses said he reportedly stopped for a moment, then fled.

He was headed to a place 1 1/2 miles south and west of the scene.

There, he spoke with a friend, investigators said. He told the man he had hit a deer when he passed a school bus and said he “hoped it was not a kid.” He also told the man he had an eye disorder and ought not be driving.

He tested positive for marijuana use in the hours after his arrest.

Sentencing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 27.

Though Gunderson has been released from the Worth County Jail in October after posting bond, he was taken back into custody Friday after changing his plea.

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