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19-year-old sentenced for crash that killed ND woman on way to monastery

BISMARCK — A 19-year-old was sentenced Friday to 10 years in state prison for a drunken driving crash that killed a Bismarck woman who was on her way to volunteer at a monastery last fall.

The fatal crash occurred Oct. 10, 2016, in Bismarck on University Drive just south of Burleigh Avenue. Alexus Hankinson rear-ended a pickup driven by Ralph von Ruden, 67. His wife, Janet von Ruden, 65, was a passenger.

Prosecutor Julie Lawyer said Hankinson was fleeing from a Bismarck Police officer. Her 2010 Dodge Challenger reached speeds of more than 90 mph when the officer stopped pursuing the vehicle, per department policy. About a mile down the road, she crashed.

Both von Rudens were taken to the hospital, and Janet von Ruden died a week later of her injuries.

Before South Central District Judge John Grinsteiner handed down the sentence to Hankinson, he heard from the von Rudens.

"There have been times in my life when I've seen other people in so much grief, that I've wondered how they're physically able to put one foot in front of the other and move forward," said daughter Angela von Ruden-Doll, who is from Minnesota, her voice quavering with emotion. "I never imagined myself in that position, and Alexus' actions put me there twice."

The first time was when the intensive care unit doctor told her and her family that her "mom's brain damage was the worst any of the doctors at Sanford had ever seen." And again, a week later, walking down the "very long center aisle" at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck for her mom's funeral.

"Most people live their life expecting to outlive their parents, but most of us don't expect their mother to be killed by a drunk driver who's 18 years old going 115 mph, trying to flee police on a Monday morning while their mother is on their way to the monastery to volunteer with the nuns," Von Ruden-Doll said.

The audience in the courtroom — made up of more than a dozen family members — wept. Hankinson cried, too.

Then, Von Ruden-Doll held up a picture that her 6-year-old daughter drew in school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that asks, "If you could change one thing in the world," what would it be?

It shows two people and a car with a big, red "X" through the middle. Her daughter told her one is a police officer and the other is a drunken driver, and her daughter's teacher wrote down below it, "There would be no drinking and driving."

"I want my daughter's message to become your message. I want you to think about the decisions that you made and the consequences that reach far beyond yourself," Von Ruden-Doll told Hankinson.

Ralph Von Ruden is deacon at Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. When asked by the judge what sentence he would like to see imposed, he spoke of forgiveness and just wanting Hankinson to learn from the accident.

Judge Grinsteiner asked Hankinson if there was anything she would like to say before he sentenced her.

"I'm sorry," Hankinson cried, following the muttering of some words that were inaudible due to her shaking. "I take full responsibility for what happened that day."

Both families talked inside the courtroom after the hearing ended.

"(Hankinson's family is) going through a lot of grief and misery, too," Ralph von Ruden said after the hearing. "We wanted to express our feeling that everybody lost in that situation, you know, and her choosing to drink."

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