Charges: Southern Minnesota man high on meth killed motorist in head-on crash

MINNESOTA LAKE, Minn. — A man had methamphetamine and appeared to be under its influence after causing a southern Minnesota crash that killed a Wells woman, charges say.
Michael Ray Johnson, 62, of Elmore, is charged with felony criminal vehicular operation in the crash on Wednesday afternoon south of Minnesota Lake that killed 67-year-old Patricia Bathke.
Johnson also was charged Friday in Faribault County District Court with felony drug crimes and felony criminal vehicular operation.
According to the court complaint and State Patrol report:
Johnson was in a car northbound on Minnesota 22 when he went into the southbound lane and hit an oncoming car head-on.
Patricia Bathke was in the passenger seat of the other car and died of multiple injuries at the scene.
The other driver, James Bathke, 69, was taken to the Mayo Clinic Health System hospital in Mankato with minor injuries.
When the Minnesota Lake police chief made first contact with Johnson, he was rummaging through his car and said: “I need to find my cigarettes. I need a smoke.”
When the chief returned from aiding the Bathkes, Johnson was fidgety, had dilated pupils and was still looking for cigarettes. He said he fell asleep while driving.
Johnson was uncooperative with paramedics and then resumed rummaging through his car. He retrieved a bag containing methamphetamine, then claimed “that ain’t mine.”
More methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were found in Johnson’s car.
Johnson later made contradictory statements to a State Patrol investigator. The trooper observed Johnson appeared to be high. Johnson said he had last used meth three or four days prior to the crash and had not slept since then.
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