DA won’t charge driver in fatal Hwy. 60 crash

Investigation found that while Grafton man caused accident that claimed life of teacher he wasn’t reckless, Gerol says
Ozaukee Press staff

Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Wednesday that no charges will be issued in the connection with the Nov. 22 traffic accident that claimed the life of Grafton Elementary School teacher Jill Ruland.

Ruland was killed in a head-on crash on Highway 60 near First Avenue in Grafton when a 2010 Jeep Patriot driven by Nathaniel Fischer crossed the centerline and struck her 2011 Volvo C30, according to police.

Ruland, 51, was transported by Flight for Life to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa. Fischer was also taken to Froedtert by a Grafton ambulance for serious but non-life threatening injuries, police said.

While tragic, the accident does not meet the legal standard needed to charge Fischer, Gerol said.    

“I’m restricted by the charges available,” he said, and those are generally criminal negligence or recklessness.

To determine if charges can be brought, Gerol said, he has to look not at the result but the action itself.

“We examine if the conduct creates a risk of death and if the risk was unreasonable or substantial,” he said.

The Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office did an extensive investigation that included an accident reconstruction, examination of the vehicles for defects, toxicology tests and an examination of Fischer’s phone records seeking anything that could have distracted him, Gerol said.

“We weren’t able to find anything,” he said.

Fischer cut the curve in the road, crossing the centerline, to cause the accident, Gerol said.

“People cut the curves quite frequently and it rarely causes death. For criminal recklessness, you need something more,” he said.     

 “What we’re left with is just a very tragic accident. These are tough cases. Any death is tragic. But it’s not the basis for criminal prosecution.”

 Fischer was cited for operating a vehicle left of the centerline after the accident. 

“There’s no question that Mr. Fischer is responsible for the accident,” he said. “Mr. Fischer is 100% liable to the victim for the harm he caused, a matter that could be pursued in civil court.”


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