FERGUS FALLS, Minn. – Relatives of an Elysian man killed in a boating crash say the 74-year-old boater who caused the collision flew more than their loved one last year in northern Otter Tail County -Western Minnesota.
The wife, daughters and sisters of Neil “Pat” Baker, 52, gave moving testimony Wednesday in Otter Tail County District Court before Judge Sharon Benson sentenced Charles Willis Gramith of Roseville to 113 days in prison and two months of house arrest. Gramith pleaded guilty in August to a homicide and driving charge that caused an accident that killed Baker instantly.
“The accused did not take a single person,” said Baker’s daughter, Hayley Baker. “He destroyed a family, a life of memories.”
Four other charges were dismissed, including three alleging that Gramith was under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating substances. The charge to which he pleaded guilty said he had left the scene of the accident.
He will get credit for four days of time served. He also has to do annual watercraft safety conferences for 10 years, which is the length of his probation.
Gramith crashed his boat on August 22, 2020 in Baker’s moored boat on the northeast side of Otter Tail Lake, according to the criminal complaint.
Baker’s wife Pamela told investigators she was helping her husband tie up the boat to their dock when they saw their next door neighbor Gramith heading towards them at high speed, documents show judicial. She then said “it’s getting hot” before Gramith crashed into their boat, according to the criminal complaint.
The collision knocked over Pamela Baker. Neil Baker was found in the water.
Gramith told investigators he drank two beers while operating the boat and one before, according to the complaint. He then parked his boat on an elevator, according to the complaint.
Instead of going in the water to help Neil Baker, Gramith went to his house to get a glass of water because it was hot, according to the complaint.
A preliminary test showed he had an alcohol content in his blood of 0.051%, but a doctor who prepared a toxicology report said that this level was not in line with the amount Gramith said he drank, according to an amended complaint.
The doctor said Gramith’s blood alcohol level should have been 0.081%, just above the legal limit, according to the complaint. The doctor added that the drugs Gramith was taking at the time could have increased the harmful effects of alcohol, according to the complaint.
Gramith faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for driving homicide. His lack of criminal history, cooperation with the investigation and other factors worked in his favor to get a lower sentence, said Gramith’s lawyer, Debbie Lang.
The family recalled how kind and caring Neil Baker was, adding that he loved the outdoors and the lake. Her death was tragic, senseless and shattered the memories the family made on the lake, her sister, Colleen Keough, said.
“Pat was a very good man, and you are not,” she said, addressing Gramith, adding that her lack of judgment robbed them of Neil Baker. “I hope you will suffer for the rest of your life as we have.”
Gramith showed little emotion throughout the hearing. He said he was sorry for what had happened and that he would think of the Baker’s every day for the rest of his life.
“I take responsibility for Pat’s death because I was driving the boat and didn’t get into the water to help,” Gramith said.
He is due to report to prison on December 28.