June 13, 2024


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The Tesla driver said that if the Mille Lacs doctor had been killed, he might have been on autopilot, distracted

The Tesla driver said that if the Mille Lacs doctor had been killed, he might have been on autopilot, distracted

An Edina man who initially denied killing a small-town doctor in a hit-and-run near Mille Lacs Lake last fall told investigators he didn't remember hitting the woman with his Tesla — but if he did, he would have been driving. On autopilot and checking emails.

The disclosures came in search warrant warrants filed by law enforcement officers on Thursday and Friday requesting court permission to search the man's email account and data on his cellphone. They are investigating the death of 56-year-old Kathy Ann Donovan at sunset on November 13 along the northbound interstate. 169 near the south shore of the lake.

Suspicions about the 42-year-old first surfaced in an affidavit filed on January 30 that revealed his cell phone was in the area at the time Donovan was hit, his windshield wiper was on the sidewalk near Donovan's body, and his SUV appeared to be… One of the surveillance video footage on this section of highway was captured around the time of the accident.

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton said “the facts… are important” and added: “I certainly think we have identified probable cause.” Charges have not yet been filed, and the Star Tribune does not generally identify suspects before they are charged.

“My client is not distressed because he believes he was involved in the incident with Ms. Donovan, and is grieving for her family, loved ones and the community,” the man's attorney, David Riske, said in an email Friday to the Star Tribune. .

“We are committed to getting to the bottom of what happened. My client voluntarily spoke to investigators and explained that it was likely his vehicle was using Tesla's full self-driving capability. He will continue to cooperate fully with this investigation. Until it is completed.”

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Two weeks after the man denied hitting Donovan, investigators questioned him again. “He asserted that he did not remember hitting Cathy Donovan with his Tesla, but that if he had done so, he would have been alone in the Tesla driving on 'Autopilot', not paying attention to the road, while doing things like checking work emails,” according to the filings.

A team from the Criminal Apprehension Bureau also found minor damage to the front end of the car that had not been detected by the authorities' previous visual inspection. The previous affidavit indicated that hair was collected from the SUV in three locations.

Donovan was vice president of staff at Mille Lacs Health System and served as medical director of its clinics.

In mid-December, family members joined the State Patrol and the Sheriff's Office in announcing a $10,000 reward that they hoped would lead to the case being solved. Anyone with information about the incident can call the tip line at 320-983-8346 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.