Jury deliberations continue in hit-and-run death of Lakeville soldier

Farmington man on trial 

A Scott County jury will continue deliberations today in the trial of a Farmington man charged with criminal vehicular homicide in the Sept. 25 hit-and-run death of a National Guard soldier from Lakeville.

Matthew Keely Hartley
Matthew Keely Hartley

Matthew Keely Hartley, 34, testified Feb. 22 he had been in an Elko New Market bar for hours, but consumed no alcohol before driving his motorcycle on the wrong side of the road, hitting Mollie Mahowald, 24, and leaving the scene.

Although life-saving measures were taken, Mahowald died on the street where she had landed, her sister holding her hand.

Witnesses testified Hartley had been drinking alcohol prior to the crash, and police say they clocked Hartley at 85 miles per hour as they passed him en route to the accident.

Hartley told jurors he was traveling about 25-30 miles per hour when he left the bar and remembered seeing a female take several steps into the road and waving, but did not remember hitting her.

Prosecutor Michael Budka said police’s accident reenactment investigation and conclusions did not support Hartley’s testimony that Mahowald stepped into the road.

Hartley said he left the scene because he did not have a driver’s license or a motorcycle endorsement and on the stand denied Budka’s comments that he was trying to evade police and sober up.

Hartley told jurors he was trying to protect his $40,000 Harley Davidson from the rain when he put the motorcycle under a canoe behind some buses and placed a trash lid over its handlebars instead of parking it in the garage, but Budka said Hartley was trying to hide evidence.

Hartley also testified he was in a Minneapolis restaurant earlier in the evening and did not arrive at the Elko New Market bar until around 11:30 p.m.

Witness Dale Maxson, 49, testified he was working security at the one of the bars, and testified he heard “obnoxious revving of motors” then saw Hartley arrive at the Elko New Market bar with two women and a man between 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Maxson told jurors he saw the group toast and each drink a shot inside the bar.

He said the group all consumed their beverages containing alcohol before leaving the bar late that night after he told them they could not leave the bar carrying them.

Family and friends of Mahowald’s filled much of the courtroom.

Mahowald’s sisters Julia and Hannah Mahowald each wore shirts they told Sun Thisweek Mollie Mahowald had given them.

Hannah Mahowald’s bright pink T-shirt said, “Army proud sister of an American Soldier.”

Many of the supporters sobbed quietly during Budka’s closing statement when he showed pictures of Mollie Mahowald. In the first photo, Mollie Mahowald is wearing an Army hat, smiling brightly, eyes glowing. In the other, she is lying in the street surrounded in blood, her leg unnaturally sprawled out,

Jurors deliberated about for about two hours before requesting to review evidence of cell phone video from the night of the accident showing Hartley with another man leaving the bar on their motorcycles just before the crash.

The short clip includes audio of a group of people gathered as Hartley and his friend get on their motorcycles; Hartley trailing the friend by a few seconds.

Some in the group yelled profane-laced comments about their safety driving just before they drive away.

“Don’t (expletive) die!” one yells out.

A handful of Hartley’s supporters also attended the trial, including his father John Hartley.

He spoke briefly to local media, stating the only perfect person on earth has been Jesus.