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Man charged in June 2016 death of Aitkin County woman

A Deerwood man has been charged following the June 2016 death of an Aitkin County woman fatally struck by a vehicle near her mailbox. Timothy Paul Kostal, 61, of Deerwood, was charged last month with a misdemeanor for careless driving on June 10,...

Marge Johnson was killed June 10, 2016, after being struck by a vehicle near her mailbox. Submitted photo
Marge Johnson was killed June 10, 2016, after being fatally struck by a vehicle near her mailbox. Submitted photo

A Deerwood man has been charged following the June 2016 death of an Aitkin County woman fatally struck by a vehicle near her mailbox.

Timothy Paul Kostal, 61, of Deerwood, was charged last month with a misdemeanor for careless driving on June 10, 2016, the day of the fatal incident. Kostal is scheduled for an arraignment at 10 a.m. Monday at the Aitkin County Courthouse. If convicted, Kostal could face a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Margaret Ann Johnson, 85, of rural Aitkin County was found dead on the shoulder of Highway 47 about 3.5 miles east of Aitkin. She was found near the end of her driveway by her mailbox.

Bonnie O'Neill, Johnson's daughter, said because someone was charged with a crime in the death of her mother, the family can start the process of finding closure. Johnson's family isn't happy with the level of the charge Kostal faces, she said, but she knows her mother would want her family to forgive Kostal.

"She taught us always to forgive," O'Neill said. "And this is something that it's very hard to forgive someone (for)."

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Forgiveness won't come right away, O'Neill said, but the family is starting the process of trying to forgive Kostal. Johnson was a woman of faith and her church community meant a lot to her, she said, and with those things comes forgiveness.

Johnson was an avid Minnesota Twins fan and brought a "Circle Me Bert" sign to a game for her birthday one year. Her and her grandchildren made it on TV with their sign, O'Neill said, which was really exciting for her.

Johnson was very active in her church, St. James Catholic Church in Aitkin, O'Neill said. She counted money once a month, was in the quilter's group and served meals for funerals. Her volunteer streak extended to Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin, where she volunteered in the cafeteria as a cashier. It didn't matter who went through Johnson's line in the cafeteria, she gave everyone a smile and told them to enjoy their meal.

Johnson liked to greet people like she had known them forever, O'Neill said, often with a hug. The day she died, Johnson was making food for relatives coming to visit.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Aitkin County District Court, at about 12:57 p.m. June 10, 2016, a woman called and reported a person had just been hit on Highway 47. About one minute later, Kostal called the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office and reported a woman lying along Highway 47 near the end of a driveway. The responding deputy saw a variety of cuts, bruises and scratches on Johnson, who was pronounced dead at 1:44 p.m.

On June 11, 2016, the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office determined Johnson's cause of death to be multiple traumatic injuries due to automobile-pedestrian collision.

On June 14, 2016, a Minnesota State Patrol investigator spoke with the woman who first reported the incident. The woman said she saw a white diesel pickup truck parked south of where Johnson was laying. The woman saw a man standing on the road who then went back to the truck. The woman described the man "as looking like he was freaking out."

The investigator spoke to Kostal, who said he saw Johnson laying on the side of the road and drove past her before he stopped. He then backed up and got out of his truck to check on Johnson. On June 16, 2016, Kostal told the investigator he did not think he ran over Johnson, but he must have.

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Kostal gave the investigator permission to photograph the tires on his Dodge Ram pickup truck. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab determined the tire impressions on the back of Johnson's pants and shirt are similar in general tread design to the tire from the photos.

On June 27, 2016, investigators interviewed Kostal who described driving by Johnson after seeing her laying on the side of the road. He then backed up until he could see Johnson's vehicle parked in the driveway. He then pulled forward before getting out of his truck. He said he did not realize until after speaking with officers he could have backed over Johnson "and expressed remorse at the possibility."

The following day, Kostal told investigators he continued thinking about what happened to Johnson after seeing a photo of her vehicle. He said he "had a sick feeling that I did it."

A search warrant was issued for Kostal's pickup truck. The BCA lab determined the largest impression on the back of Johnson's left pant leg corresponded in general tread design and in general size and spacing to a single area on each of the known tires. A second impression on the back of Johnson's right pant leg and the tire impression on the shirt also corresponded in general to the known tires.

"Therefore, the rear dual tires and single front tires of the defendant's truck could not be eliminated as a possible source of the impressions," according to the complaint.

Related Topics: DEERWOODAITKIN COUNTY
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