MADISON, Wis. (AP) — An Iraq veteran pleaded no contest this week to charges that he drove drunk down a Wisconsin interstate and slammed into a disabled vehicle, killing three University of Minnesota students.

Bradley Erickson, 32, entered the plea Thursday to three counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one charge of operating while intoxicated causing injury.

The Associated Press left a message with Erickson’s attorney seeking comment Friday.

The crash occurred Oct. 7 in the town of Burke, after the victims’ car had pulled over with a flat tire.

One passenger, Carlos Rios, told investigators a rear tire blew out and the group pulled completely into the emergency lane near the median of Interstate 39/90/94. Rios said he saw a vehicle “coming very fast” toward them, and he shouted to alert his friends before jumping over the median barrier.

The vehicle slammed into the disabled car, killing Marcus Johnson, 20, of Milwaukee; Elysia Rapp, 20, of Racine; and Wilfredo Ugarte, 23, of Puerto Rico. Johnson and Ugarte were members of the University of Minnesota’s cheerleading squad.

Erickson told an investigator he didn’t see the victims’ car because he had gone around a semitrailer, according to the criminal complaint.

Prosecutors said Erickson registered a 0.158 percent on a Breathalyzer shortly after the crash. That’s about twice the legal limit for drivers in Wisconsin.

Erickson graduated from Verona High School in 1998 and served in Iraq. Friends told investigators that Erickson was being treated for a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder and that he sometimes used alcohol to cope.

Shortly after he returned from Iraq, Erickson received a misdemeanor citation for a first-offense OWI in February 2005.

After the crash that claimed the lives of his brother-in-law and two friends, Rios recorded a message as part of a new safety campaign by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation campaign.

“It’s just been a very hard year,” Rios said in a video released Thursday. “Everything, living life after that is very traumatic, not only for me but also for the gentleman who caused the accident. So even if you think, `Oh, just a couple beers aren’t going to do too much’ — no, because buzzed driving is drunk driving and it does happen to people.”

A WISC-TV report said Erickson will be sentenced in Oct. 28. He faces a maximum penalty of 78 years in prison and a $310,000 fine.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (16)
  1. The Bishop says:

    A-hole. Throw the book at him! Oh , shoot – we’re in Minnesota. Never mind

    1. Dale Gribble says:

      You should be ashamed. This man is a war hero and a great American, not some whiny liberal college student. It seems to me that justice has already been served.

      1. Chuck says:

        What…? He killed 3 innocent people, how has justice been served? Who cares if they are “whiny Liberal” college students, pretty sure they didn’t deserve to die. I would say you’re both disgusting people and should both be ashamed.

        1. The Bishop says:

          Chuck – why is it disgusting that I want him to be held accountable ??

          1. Chuck says:

            It’s not, it’s disgusting to call somebody an a-hole and say they should throw the book at him when you don’t know them or all the facts. It sounds like from the article he’s having a hard time with post-traumatic stress disorder and there is no mention that he intended to hurt anyone that night. It’s a story of tragic events and bad decisions. If he were your son would you call him an a-hole, would you tell the judge to throw the book at him?

      2. Amanda says:

        As I do not agree with the fact at throw the book at him. But feel also Dale that you should also be ashamed. Just because he is a soilder and went to save lives does not by no means give him the right to take them. It was that as you say ” whiny liberal college student ” that not only had to witness such a tragic event but also has had to morn his loved ones. Driving after drinking may not always cause heartache but will eventually ruin many lives.

    2. @rearendBishop says:

      Yes we’re in Minnesota this happened in Wisc. perhaps you should have read a few books growing up, you’re a tree stump.

  2. Dale Gribble says:

    He fought for your freedom, Chuck. You have no right to criticize him. Sit down and shut up.

  3. Amanda says:


    Would you really be saying the same if it where your college student that had been hit and killed by a drunk driver? Then when it all comes out after you had already totally belittled that so called man/woman find out that they are a war hero. Would you then feel the same?

    1. Dale Gribble says:

      No child of mine would go to college to be brainwashed by the liberal professors. I would not allow it.

  4. Sarah says:

    Dale – you’re a real tool. He’s a drunk that slaughtered 3 people!
    And…..there’s no way your kin could get in college

  5. justsayiin says:

    …so dale gribble, you’re saying that just because he is a war hero he should not be punished? pathetic.

    1. Rusty Shackelford says:

      Damn it Dale, have you lost your mind?

  6. Heather says:

    What a heartless jerk. College student = liberal, huh? Unbelievable

  7. John Redcorn says:

    I love booze

  8. Laura says:

    The father of the young woman killed is also a veteran. My heart goes out to the families of the young peole that were killed in this tragedy

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