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No prison for man who drove while high, killed pedestrian as he delivered pizza in Hopkins

25 February 2022

A man who was high when he ran over a woman in downtown Hopkins as he was on a pizza delivery run has been spared prison and sentenced to the workhouse.

Cole Leon Venables, 28, of Minnetonka, was sentenced Thursday in Hennepin County District Court to a year in the workhouse after pleading guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the death of Olivia DeMeuse on April 16.

DeMeuse, 26, of Hopkins, was struck about 6:55 p.m. by a car Venables was driving as she walked on the sidewalk in the 1400 block of Mainstreet. Two witnesses told police they saw Venables swerve and strike a light pole before hitting DeMeuse. Venables told officers he had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

With credit for time served since the crash, Venables has roughly five months of workhouse time remaining.

Judge William Koch set aside a sentence of 4 34 years, which would have required him to serve two-thirds of that time in prison. Venables will be on probation for five years, and Koch also ordered him to continue mental health and chemical dependency treatment.

The prosecution pushed for the 4 34 -year sentence, but the [downward] “departure was given over our objections,” said County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lacey Severins.

Venables’ defense argued in a court filing early this week for no incarceration and a probationary sentenced, so he could continue treatment for various psychological and addiction challenges.

While working at the Pizza Hut in Hopkins, Venables’ manager supplied him with the anti-anxiety drug Xanax about a week before the crash, Defense attorney Joseph McInnis wrote. However, it was a central nervous system depressant supplied by his boss, and not Xanax, that was in Venables’ system at the time of the crash.

The defense also pointed out Venables’ expressions of remorse from the moment he ran over DeMeuse, his cooperation with the investigation and his amenity to substance abuse treatment as factors in support of him not being locked up.

Venables’ criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for drunken driving, possessing drug paraphernalia and driving with open liquor in the vehicle.

DeMeuse studied business at the University of St. Thomas, where she graduated magna cum laude in 2016, according to her online obituary. At the time of her death, she was studying for her master’s at St. Thomas and working for a Twin Cities educational software company.

“Olivia had an unmatched passion for the future and an unwavering drive to see her dreams come true,” the obituary read.

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