Charges filed in fatal accident

Charges have been filed by Clay County State's Attorney Teddi Gertsma relating to a deadly accident that occurred east of Vermillion nearly a month ago.


According to a press release from Gertsma's office, Alyxandra Harter, Omaha, NE, is being charged with careless driving and driving on the wrong side of the road. Both charges are Class 2 misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.


At approximately 11:35 p.m. Sept. 17, Harter, a junior at the University of South Dakota, was traveling westbound in the eastbound passing lane of Highway 50 when her vehicle struck a car head-on being driven by Elizabeth Lias, 21, of Sioux Falls.


Lias, a senior at USD who was lawfully traveling eastbound, was pronounced dead at the scene.


Harter was taken to Sanford Vermillion Hospital and later flown to Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls.


Investigators determined that alcohol wasn't a factor in the accident.


"She (Harter) just simply got in the wrong lane, and drove in the wrong lane," Gertsma said.


The state's attorney confirmed that Harter is diabetic. "But as far as I can tell, that has nothing to do with any of the criminal charges," she said.


Gertsma said the necessary paperwork involving the charges will likely be filed with the clerks of courts office on Friday. Should Harter decide to plead guilty to the charges, she will pay a fine to the clerk, the state's attorney said.


"If she wants to plead not guilty, then she can do that and it will get set for a trial," Gertsma said. "But they are Class 2 misdemeanors, so most likely, if she decides to plead not guilty, then the case would be before a judge and not a jury."


The outcome of the case will not be decided in a courtroom. Harter will enter her plea in Clerk of Courts Robin Iverson's office, which regularly handles traffic offenses. The date of Harter's hearing hasn't been determined.


"Robin is considered a magistrate court judge," Gertsma said, "although she does her work from the clerk of courts office. She can take pleas on the Class 2s (misdemeanors) so she will make her plea to one of the clerks of court."


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