RACINE — A Caledonia man, charged with allegedly killing a father and daughter while driving drunk last year, pleaded no contest to the charges in court on Monday.
Levi G. Ruohonen, 26, of the 4500 block of Valley Road, appeared at the Law Enforcement Center for a plea hearing Monday morning. Multiple media agencies were in attendance, reflecting the high level of attention the case has received throughout the area.
As part of a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Ruohonen pleaded no contest to two felony counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle while having a prior intoxicant-related conviction or revocation.
Two charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration while having a prior intoxicant-related conviction or revocation were dismissed as part of the agreement.
During his appearance, Ruohonen appeared solemn and quiet. Members of Ruohonen’s family were at the hearing to support him. It did not appear any family members of the victims of the crash were at the plea hearing.
Ruohonen originally had pleaded not guilty last December to two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle with a prior conviction and a third charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing injury, for injuries a third victim suffered in the crash. But on Monday, Ruohonen changed his plea, opting to bypass a jury trial.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Ruohonen was immediately taken into custody, having been out of prison on a $50,000 cash bond. He did not look back at family and friends before being taken into custody.
Each of the charges to which Ruohonen pleaded no contest carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the Law Enforcement Center, 717 Wisconsin Ave.
Horrific crash scene
The fatal crash occurred on Nov. 25, 2016. At about 4:45 p.m. that day, near the intersection of 4 Mile and Short roads in Caledonia, police say Ruohonen crashed his large four-door pickup truck into the back of a car driven by Kevin M. Dalley, 39. Dalley’s daughter Emily, 9, and another daughter, 6, were both in the car at the time.
Both Kevin and Emily were killed in the crash. The 6-year-old girl was injured but survived.
The Daileys were just feet from their home when the crash occurred. The impact reportedly was so powerful that an officer reported he “was unable to discern where the truck ended and the sedan started.”