Prosecutors charge two drivers in high-speed chase and fatal crash

Hennepin County District Court received a guilty plea from one of the drivers involved in an April 30 car chase that killed 32-year-old Jason Ritenour.

Raheem Quanta Meekins, age 27, pleaded guilty this month to one count of criminal vehicular homicide and one count of criminal vehicular operation. Co-defendant Chelsea Nichelle Haynes, age 23, has a Nov. 6 court hearing.

According to the criminal complaint: The chase started near Grant & LaSalle, when Meekins and Haynes threw bricks at each other’s cars. Meekins and Haynes chased each other in separate cars down city streets, with the cars running into each other at different points during the chase. Meekins ran a red light at 26th & Blaisdell, followed by Haynes, who broadsided the vehicle holding Ritenour.

Surveillance cameras show the traffic light had been red for six seconds when Haynes entered the intersection, and computer analysis indicates she was traveling 62 miles per hour at the time of impact, according to the attorney’s office.

Meekins fled the crash scene, according to the complaint, and a passenger in his car stayed and provided information to investigators.

Prosecutors said Meekins represents an extreme risk to public safety, citing a history of drug, burglary and driving convictions. Prosecutors are seeking an aggravated sentence, saying neither driver held a valid license, the drivers struck multiple vehicles and victims, and Meekins’ driving conduct was allegedly in “furtherance of domestic abuse.” The complaint said Meekins assaulted two women on multiple occasions and threatened to “shoot up one of their homes.”

Ritenour’s wife, Gaea Dill D’Ascoli, was driving the vehicle holding Ritenour at the time of the crash. She is attending court hearings and blogging about her experience.

The following is her Sept. 15 entry:

“Imagine your life like a stained glass window.  You have things that center the image – for me, it was Jason and my family.  There are other things that make up the image – pets, hobbies, work, friends, passions.  There are probably parts that are less pretty, too, because we all have them.  The whole thing sits inside a frame.  That frame encompasses your life, but there are spaces filled with plain glass, places that have yet to be explored and discovered.  It is a thing of beauty.

On April 30th, my stained glass shattered.  It shattered from the center out, like a gunshot.  As the center dissolved into dust, the rest of the pieces fell and broke into shards until even the frame is warped beyond recognition.

Now, I have to pick up each one of those shards.  They are sharp.  I’m trying to fit the broken shards back into a picture, but the center is gone and the frame is twisted out of recognition.  I still have to pick up each of the pieces and put it someplace and try to rebuild.  I don’t get to not do this work, but it is slow, painful work.”

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