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Saturday accident killed sisters, 21 and 23; man driving could face charges

Amidst the deaths of two young Crookston mothers, the close-knit women of the Rowley family came together. A grandmother, a mother and aunts visited Mercedes Rowley's childhood home in Aneta, N.D., Monday, remembering the 23-year-old and her 21-y...

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Sisters Teja Beyer (left), and Mercedes Rowley. Submitted photo.


Amidst the deaths of two young Crookston mothers, the close-knit women of the Rowley family came together.

A grandmother, a mother and aunts visited Mercedes Rowley’s childhood home in Aneta, N.D., Monday, remembering the 23-year-old and her 21-year-old sister, Teja Beyer, both of whom died in a rollover crash near Hillsboro, N.D., Saturday night, leaving behind young children.

The driver of the car could face charges of driving under the influence and is being treated for injuries, according to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

There were some tears and a lot of love and support shared as the women gathered at mother Dawn Rowley’s home, where Mercedes grew up, said Amanda Rowley, Dawn’s sister and Mercedes’ and Teja’s aunt, of Fisher, Minn.


“This is devastating,” said Debbie Mickelson, another aunt, of Cooperstown, N.D., who added that both Mercedes and Teja were “so devoted” as mothers, like their own mother was. “You can’t say enough good about their mom, Dawn,” Mickelson said.

Mercedes and Teja had lived together in Crookston for about a month or two with Mercedes’ 2-year-old son, Eli, and 1-year-old daughter, Annalise, and Teja’s 5-month-old son, Huntley, Amanda Rowley said. Teja was living with Mercedes until she could find her own place.

Mercedes’ children are now with their father in Crookston and Teja’s son is with his dad in Grand Forks, Amanda Rowley said.

“It’s just so unbelievable,” said Sharon Rowley, Mercedes and Teja’s grandmother. “They were just wonderful girls that shouldn’t have been taken so soon.”

The crash

Before the crash, Mercedes and Teja had been at a gathering for Teja’s co-workers at the Nielsville, Minn., home of James Gregory Yahnke, Amanda Rowley said. From what she knows, Yahnke worked with Teja at the New Flyer bus manufacturers in Crookston, she said.

“They (Mercedes and Teja) had wanted to ride in his new sports car,” Amanda Rowley said.

Yahnke, 51, was driving a 2014 Dodge Challenger on Traill County Road 17 at about 9:20 p.m. when the car went into the right ditch, struck a driveway and began to roll, according to a news release from the Patrol.


Mercedes and Teja were pronounced dead at the scene, and Yahnke was airlifted to Sanford Hospital in Fargo. Sanford did not have consent from Yahnke’s family to give information on his medical condition.

According to the Patrol, Yahnke is suspected of driving under the influence, but no charge had appeared on the North Dakota courts website as of 7 p.m. Monday. The incident is still under investigation by the Highway Patrol, Capt. Brian Niewind said.


Mercedes grew up in Aneta with the sisters’ mom, and Teja grew up in Red Lake Falls, Minn., with their dad, Amanda Rowley said.

Throughout their lives, the women were close to each other, and to their family, their relatives said.

“Us girls are really close,” Mickelson said.

Amanda Rowley would babysit both Mercedes’ and Teja’s children while the girls were working in Crookston, she said.

“They were amazing mothers,” she added. “They really loved their kids.”


Mercedes worked for Villa St. Vincent Nursing home in Crookston, according to her online obituary. She enjoyed sports and outdoor activities.

Teja enjoyed sports, outdoors activities and reading, according to her obituary.

A funeral for the two sisters is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. May 26 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Red Lake Falls.

Accounts for the women’s children have been set up at First Financial Bank, 205 Main Ave. Aneta, N.D., 58212.



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Mercedes Rowley and her son Eli. Submitted photo.

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