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Jury finds man not guilty of vehicular homicide

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Boyceville resident Kevin Lee Edgemon was found not guilty of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle on Wednesday, thus closing the criminal case on a tragic event that occurred more than two years ago.

What started out as a fun night out between two couples, ended in the death of Jason A. Ogea, a 33-year-old Menomonie resident.

According to the criminal complaint, Edgemon, who turns 36 this month, and his girlfriend at the time, Amy Johnston, met Jason Ogea and Jason’s wife, Brandi, at about 10:30 p.m. on July 27, 2007, at the Pioneer Grill and Saloon on County Highway D in Tainter Lake township. Jason and Brandi Ogea had arrived earlier.

Ogea told investigators that they had some drinks and left the bar at about 1 a.m., July 28, to go to Perkins Restaurant in north Menomonie.

Brandi Ogea and Johnston reportedly rode together in Ogea’s van. Edgemon and Jason Ogea were in Johnston’s car, a red 2004 Ford Thunderbird convertible. Both Johnston and Ogea stated that Edgemon was in the driver’s seat when the women pulled out of the parking lot in Ogea’s van.

When their husbands had not arrived to the restaurant within the next half hour or so, Ogea and Johnston drove back to the Pioneer, taking the route they  thought the men would have taken. They reportedly saw what looked like automobile skid marks on their way back to the bar. When they did not see the Thunderbird in the Pioneer parking lot, they drove back to where they thought they saw the tire marks.

During testimony, Ogea said  that while retracing their steps, they saw lights off on the side of the road near the skid marks. Ogea testified that Johnston said to her, “That’s my car.”

According to a Dunn County Sheriff Department accident investigator, the vehicle that Edgemon and Jason Ogea were in had been traveling at an estimated speed of 113 mph when it crashed on County Highway D about a mile east of State Highway 25. Both men had been ejected from the vehicle, which reportedly rolled several times. Ogea and Johnston had located Edgemon by the time Ogea called 911. But they were unable to find Jason Ogea.

Menomonie Fire Department personnel used a thermal-imaging device to locate Jason Ogea. According to the report, he was not breathing, and although emergency responders did all they could to provide emergency medical treatment, Ogea was pronounced dead at the scene. Edgemon, who suffered multiple injuries, was airlifted to Luther Hospital in Eau Claire.

Edgemon was interviewed at the hospital by two Wisconsin state troopers. He told the officers he had had five beers, that he did not remember what happened, but that his girlfriend had been driving the car at the time of the accident. Although he initially refused a sobriety test at the hospital, a blood sample was drawn about two-and-a-half hours after the 911 call came in. The results showed that Edgemon’s blood alcohol level was below the legal limit.

The jury listened to two days of testimony before receiving instructions from Dunn County Circuit Court Judge Bill Stewart and hearing  closing arguments on Wednesday. The jury deliberated for about two-and-a-half hours before coming back with a not guilty verdict.

The state was not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Edgemon was the one behind the wheel when the car spun out of control. The defense claimed that Ogea, who had had the most to drink that evening, according to Brandi Ogea’s statement, was the one behind the wheel.

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