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Florida woman who caused crash that killed unborn child in east North Dakota avoids jail time

Claudia Grace

HILLSBORO, N.D.—A Florida woman will avoid jail time for causing a crash last month in Traill County that took the life of an unborn child.

Traill County District Court Judge Tom Olson accepted a plea deal for Claudia Rae Grace, 75, of The Villages, Fla., who entered a guilty plea to a Class A misdemeanor count of aggravated reckless driving. She was sentenced to 360 days behind bars, the maximum punishment for the charge, but Olson suspended the entire jail sentence, pursuant to the plea agreement.

The judgement closes the case on a two-vehicle crash Grace caused July 8 about 4 miles north of Hillsboro on Interstate 29. Tyler Michael Bedney of Grand Forks was driving north in a 2017 Chevy Silverado and attempted to pass Grace, who was driving a Toyota passenger car, according to court documents. That's when Grace tried to pass a vehicle in front of her, but she did not see the pickup next to her and turned into it, according to court documents.

Grace was not injured in the crash, prosecutors said in court documents. The Silverado rolled several times after entering the ditch, seriously injuring Bedney and his passenger, Ashley Renae Fontaine, according to the North Dakota State Patrol.

Fontaine was six months pregnant, and she lost the baby in the crash. Officers arrested Grace "due to the negligent driving behavior that caused the death of the unborn child" and for aggravated reckless driving, court documents said.

In exchange for signing the plea agreement, a Class C felony of negligent homicide brought against Grace, which carried a prison term of up to five years, was dismissed.

Grace will be put on unsupervised probation for a year. The case and guilty plea will be expunged 61 days after the termination of her probation.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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