Almost one year after a single-vehicle accident killed a 20-year-old Sabula man, the driver has been charged.
Andy Lee Ahrens, 21, of Maquoketa, was charged with homicide by vehicle, operating under the influence. The class B felony is defined as unintentionally causing the death of another by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of controlled substances, according to Iowa Code.
Ahrens’ blood alcohol level measured 0.213, almost three times the legal limit of 0.08, and his blood also tested positive for amphetamines, according to charging documents.
The charge stems from an accident at 12:23 p.m. Oct. 7, 2018, about four miles south of Bellevue on Highway 52.
Ahrens and a passenger, Alex Robert Behr, 20, were traveling north on Highway 52 when the Jeep Cherokee Ahrens was driving left the road “for reasons unknown,” according to the accident report. The vehicle struck a tree head-on and started to burn.
Behr died at the scene and was partially ejected through the front windshield, according to the accident report.
Law enforcement smelled the scent of alcohol emanating from Ahrens, according to charging documents. At the accident scene, Ahrens admitted to Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Beck that he lost control of the vehicle and went into the ditch, according to the search warrant.
“Ahrens stated multiple times to myself and medical personnel that he should not have been driving and that his ‘buddies’ stated it was alright for him to drive,” according to Beck’s narrative, which was included in the search warrant. “Ahrens admitted to me that he had been drinking prior to the accident.”
Beck’s report noted that Ahrens also exhibited signs of intoxication such as unsteadiness, watery and bloodshot eyes, confusion and forgetfulness.
According to Beck’s narrative, Ahrens consented to a breath test at 12:46 p.m. Oct. 7; that sample tested at 0.249.
That day, Beck applied by phone for a search warrant to obtain a sample of Ahrens’ blood while he was being treated for his hand and arm injuries at Mercy Hospital in Dubuque. Magistrate John Kies signed the search warrant.
Ahrens’ blood sample was sent to the Department of Criminal Investigation crime lab in Ankeny for testing. The toxicology reports showed Ahrens’ blood alcohol level was 0.213 at the time of the accident and that he had amphetamines in his system.
District Court Judge Mark D. Cleve on Aug. 20 issued a warrant for Ahrens’ arrest. Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy Russ Long personally served the warrant to Ahrens at 104 S. Niagara St., Maquoketa, at 4:25 p.m. on Sept. 19. Ahrens turned himself in to law enforcement officials.
He was released upon posting $10,000 cash or bond.
Under Iowa law, people who plead guilty or are found guilty of a class B felony could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison, may have their license revoked for six years, may have to satisfactorily complete a drinking drivers course, and may have to submit to a substance abuse evaluation and subsequent treatment or rehabilitation services.
Ahrens’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Jackson County Courthouse. In a preliminary hearing, the judge decides if there is enough probable cause to continue with the case. If there is not, the case can be dismissed. If so, the case moves forward.
Ahrens did not respond to attempts to contact him for comment.