Bond set at $500,000 for suspect accused of killing boy in drunken driving crash

John Lahti, 41
John Lahti, 41(Lincoln County Jail)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:32 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOWN OF MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - Bond was set at $500,000 cash for a 41-year-old Merrill man accused of causing a fatal crash while driving drunk.

The crash happened Saturday around 7:30 p.m. on Highway 17 near Sunrise Road.

John Lahti is charged with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and causing injury while operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Wisconsin State Patrol, Lahti’s pickup crossed the centerline while driving south on Highway 17. It struck another pick-up head-on.

According to State Patrol, four people were in the other truck. The driver, a 42-year-old Gleason man, and a 9-year-old female passenger from Gleason were taken to a Merrill hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Another passenger, a 37-year-old Gleason woman, suffered critical injuries and was flown to Aspirus Wausau Hospital. The fourth passenger, an 8-year-old Gleason boy, died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

According to court documents, the boy was seated in the backseat on the passenger’s side at the time of the crash. He was rushed to Aspirus Merrill Hospital where the initial plan was to stabilize him, and then airlift him to a specialized pediatric trauma facility. However, he died approximately one hour after arriving at the hospital.

Lahti was traveling with two dogs at the time of the crash. After being medically cleared, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office says Lahti was arrested and taken to the Lincoln County Jail.

A preliminary breath test showed Lahti blew a .290. That’s more than 3 1/2 times over the legal limit for driving. According to court documents, investigators located a liter brandy bottle that was slightly over half full. The cap was unsealed.

Lahti initially denied drinking but later said he had been at a friend’s and the bowling alley.

Lahti had a previous OWI conviction from 2004.

A clerical court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 20.