Mississippi man makes bond on vehicular homicide charge

A Mississippi truck driver appeared in Columbia County Circuit Court on Wednesday on a single charge of vehicular homicide from a fatal collision near Randolph in August. Patrick Craft, 40, of Collins, Mississippi, appeared in front of Court Commissioner Charles Church. Prosecutors say Craft was hauling potatoes east on Highway E around 1 p.m. Aug. 11 when his semi truck went through a stop sign and struck a Nissan van headed north on Highway 73. The van, driven by Christine Novak, 40, was pulling a camper with seven children in it. Highway 73 traffic does not have a stop sign at the intersection. First responders pulled both Craft and Novak from the wrecked vehicles, after which a helicopter took Novak and one of the children to the hospital. Three others were taken from the scene by ambulance. Craft also was injured in the crash. Novak later died from her injuries. When charges were filed Jan. 23, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Lt. Roger Brandner said he did not believe there was “any intent, but there was negligence.” “The district attorney is asking for a pretty big chunk of cash from you,” said Church, referring to District Attorney Jane Kohlwey’s request for a $5,000 cash bond. As Church asked about Craft’s situation, Craft, without representation, said he lives in Mississippi, working as a truck driver with a commercial driver’s license. “I called the Public Defender’s Office and they said that my income was too much,” said Craft, who added he hoped to have a court-appointed attorney. “I’m concerned because you are not a resident of the state of Wisconsin and as DA Kohlwey said, you are facing some pretty severe possible incarceration here,” Church said. “But on the other hand, you are innocent until proven guilty and apparently are employed and a long way from home.” Church set bond at $1,500 cash, pointing to court officers who would book him at Columbia County Jail and if necessary, help him get in contact with relatives to come up with the necessary cash. Craft was able to make bail later that afternoon. If convicted, Craft faces up to 7½ years in prison. He is scheduled to next appear in court for a June 5 return hearing.

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