After mourning for the past two months, some closure may have finally arrived for a Bellevue family, as a subject from Dubuque was arrested last week in connection with the death of a young woman and her unborn child.
John Hoffmann, age 69 of Dubuque, was charged with vehicular homicide for allegedly driving while intoxicated when he caused a head-on collision that killed 20 year-old Hannah Ruggeberg of Bellevue, who was 28 weeks pregnant at the time.
Hoffman faces charges of homicide by vehicle, nonconsensual termination of a human pregnancy and serious injury by vehicle. Bond was set at $250,000 at a hearing last week in Iowa District Court.
If convicted on all the charges, Hoffman faces up to 40 years in prison.
Police said Hoffman was intoxicated Nov. 9 while he was driving north on Highway 52 near Key West at around 6:30 p.m. Witnesses also told law enforcement that he was driving in the middle lane of traffic, the fast lane for southbound traffic. Two southbound vehicles also had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with his truck, according to reports.
Hoffmann then crashed into the vehicle driven by Hannah Ruggeberg of Bellevue who was traveling south, near the intersection of Bradel Cove Road. The van she was driving came to rest on its side after the collision. Along with the death of Ruggeberg and her child, a passenger, 3 year old Seriaha Phillips was seriously injured and airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospital.
According to court reports, the first deputy to arrive at the crash scene “noted an odor of an alcoholic beverage on (Hoffman’s) breath and that his speech was slurred.”
Court documents also alleged that a cooler lid, ice and a can of beer were spotted near Hoffman’s truck. Hoffman also showed “indicators of alcohol impairment” during stesting at UnityPoint Health-Finley Hospital in Dubuque, where he was taken for treatment of his injuries.
In late November, State Crime Lab officials determined Hoffman’s blood alcohol content was 0.135 percent, which is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
As well as charges being filed, mother Jessica Ruggeberg filed a lawsuit against Hoffman. The family is seeking reimbursement for medical costs and funeral expenses, as well as damages for pain, suffering and a loss of consortium.
“Punitive damages should be awarded against Hoffman in an amount which will deter Hoffman and other individuals operating motor vehicles on Iowa roadways from doing so in an intoxicated, reckless, willful and wanton manner,” the petition states.