Apple Valley man charged in Burnsville educator’s traffic death

Elizabeth Ketcher

Ketcher worked in Chinese-

Burnsville resident Elizabeth Pan-Chung-Ping Ketcher had been driving to work in the Minnetonka Public Schools since May 2009.

Her morning commute on Sept. 24, 2013, was her last.

A paraprofessional in the Chinese-language immersion program, Ketcher, 58, was three and a half miles from Excelsior Elementary School when her  Toyota Corolla was struck by a Ford 250 pickup.

Now the truck’s driver is accused of being under the influence of illegal drugs when he pulled into an intersection against a red light and rammed the driver’s side of Ketcher’s car.

Darvin Roy Basche, 50, of Apple Valley, was charged March 25 in Hennepin County with criminal vehicular homicide while driving with drugs in his system.

Basche has a criminal history in Minnesota, with open-bottle and reckless-driving convictions in 1991, a DUI conviction in 1992 and a fifth-degree controlled-substance conviction in 1999.

The crash occurred at 7:45 a.m. at the intersection of Highway 7 and County Road 101 in Minnetonka. The Taiwanese-born Ketcher, a popular staff member in Minnetonka’s Chinese-language program, died at 9:04 a.m.

According to the criminal complaint, Basche was stopped for a red light in a  northbound lane of County Road 101 when the lights “cycled,” changing eastbound Highway 7 traffic to red and adding a green arrow for cars turning onto southbound 101.

Basche, upon the cycle change, “immediately pulled into the intersection despite his light remaining red,” the complaint said. Two cars turning with the green arrow pulled out briefly but stopped as Basche accelerated past.

Ketcher, driving westbound on Highway 7, entered the green-lighted intersection at about 38 mph. Basche’s much larger vehicle had reached about 21 mph when it struck her driver’s-side door.

“The force of the impact pushed defendant’s pickup far enough into Ms. Ketcher’s cabin that neither her engaged seat belt nor her deployed air bags could save her,” the  complaint said.

Ketcher’s car then struck two others. The drivers and passengers weren’t injured.

Basche could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
‘An anchor for our program’

Ketcher was educated in Taiwan, earning a bachelor’s degree in economics. There she met her late husband, the Rev. Rodney Ketcher, a church missionary from the United States. They moved to the United States, where she became a citizen.

Joining her husband in missionary work, Ketcher later returned to Taiwan, teaching English to Chinese adults and children. Returning again to the United States, she became a substitute teacher in Chinese at Breck School before joining the Minnetonka district.

“She was an anchor for our program,” Excelsior Elementary Principal Lee Drolet said in an email. Excelsior is one of the district’s two Chinese-immersion sites.

Ketcher was a reserve teacher who substitute-taught in the program nearly every day before joining Excelsior as a paraprofessional in September, Drolet said.

“She was so diligent about coming to school, even when it was scary weather,” Drolet said.

Ketcher served as a long-term substitute during the kindergarten teacher’s maternity leave, and assisted the teacher as a paraprofessional this past fall, Drolet said.

“Elizabeth was seen to the children in that classroom as a second teacher, and they referred to her as ‘Pan Laoshi,’ Pan being her Chinese name, Laoshi meaning teacher,” Drolet said.

Having seen her work with the class many times,  Drolet said Ketcher “was filled with energy, happiness and enthusiasm when she taught the kindergartners.”