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15-year prison sentence for death of a child in Lincoln County in a drunk driving crash

John Lahti mugsho
John Lahti

A Merrill man who was driving drunk when he caused a crash that killed an eight-year-old boy two years ago is going to serve 15 years in a state prison.

John Lahti was sentenced on Monday for one count of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and OWI causing injury. After 15 years, he will spend another 10 years on extended supervision.

He will also have his driver’s license revoked for five years and must install an ignition interlock device on all of his vehicles.

Authorities say he crossed the center line while driving southbound on Highway 17 in September of 2022 and collided head-on with another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle and a passenger were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. An eight-year-old boy who was seated in the backseat died in the crash, and a fourth passenger was airlifted for serious injuries.

Lahti was the only person in his vehicle at the time of the crash and was arrested after he was treated at a local hospital.

Breathalyzer data showed Lahti had a BAC of .29, 3.5 times the legal limit for driving. Officers also found an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

The 43-year-old pled no contest to the charges as part of a deal struck earlier this year to avoid a jury trial. In exchange for the plea, numerous other counts were dismissed including reckless homicide and reckless injury.

Court records show at least five victim impact statements were made during Monday’s sentencing.

Lahti was given credit for 660 days, or about one year and ten months, already served in jail.

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