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A Wisconsin man accused of plowing into a Girl Scout troop as they picked up trash along the road—killing three young girls and a parent last fall—changed his plea to “no contest” Monday.
Colten Treu, 22, entered the “no contest” plea to four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one guilty to one count of hit-and-run causing great bodily harm more than a year after investigators said his truck veered across the road into a nearby ditch striking the Girl Scout troop as they were performing community service, local station KARE reports.
The crash killed Jayna Kelley, 9; Autumn Helgeson, 10; Haylee Hickle, 10; and Hickle’s mother Sara Jo Schneider, 32. Another 10-year-old girl was injured in the crash but survived.
Investigators said Treu bought a can of air duster the morning of Nov. 3, 2018 and had been huffing the chemical before getting behind the wheel of his truck, according to a criminal complaint obtained by WEAU.
After his passenger noticed he was “out of it,” the passenger attempted to grab the wheel. The truck crossed over the center lane and into the ditch where the girls had been picking up trash along the Lake Hallie road.
Treu then drove his truck home; however, investigators were able to find a fluid trail at the scene of the crash that led them to Treu’s garage where the truck was being stored.
Although he had initially pleaded not guilty to most of the charges against him, he agreed Monday to enter the no contest plea, which does not admit guilt but acknowledges he does not plan to fight the charges against him.
As part of the agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop six other charges against him.
“I think it was all about holding him accountable and obviously the four homicides are the more severe of the death related charges. And then for the other young victim who wasn’t killed as a result of the crash, then it was about holding him accountable for the injuries,” Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell said according to WEAU.
The prosecutor also said he wanted to spare the surviving victims the trauma of having to re-live the tragedy in court.
Treu’s sentencing has been scheduled for mid-March. The 22-year-old could face a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
"I'm going to do everything in my power at sentencing time to have him held accountable for the harm that he did to the citizens here in Chippewa County and to those four young girls and the mother," Newell said.
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