Shopko crasher pleads ‘no contest,’ faces year in jail.

October 9, 2017

Matthew Krueger with defense attorney, Julie Springstead Waltz.

Shopko crasher pleads ‘no contest,’ faces year in jail.

#OceanaCountyNews

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — The 36-year-old Mears man who crashed his pickup truck through the Shopko store in Hart last spring pleaded “no contest” to malicious destruction of a building $20,000 or more in 27th Circuit Court Monday, Oct. 9, and faces serving one year in jail.

In exchange for Matthew Lawrence Krueger’s plea, one count of felonious assault (with his truck) and a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving were dismissed.

Krueger was found competent to stand trial following testing at a psychiatric facility in Ypsilanti.

However, he qualified for pleading “not guilty by reason of insanity,” said his defense attorney, Julie Springstead Waltz. Springstead Waltz told Judge Bradley G. Lambrix that she advised Krueger to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity,” but he “elected to enter a plea of ‘no contest’ against my wishes.”

Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon said both victims in the case — the woman who Krueger almost hit with his truck and the store owner — agreed to the plea agreement, which calls for Krueger serving one year in jail. He will also be ordered to pay restitution, although the amount has not yet been determined.

“I am recommending that compliance with community mental health or an equivalent be a part of his probation order,” Bizon said.

Krueger was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” in August of 2015 for burning down his parents’ hobby garage in Mears the previous February and then going on a rampage at the US Coast Guard Station in Grand Haven, ramming the facility’s gate with his vehicle and assaulting a service member after calling in a bomb threat.

The most recent incident involved crashing through the Shopko Hometown store in Hart with his pickup truck last May while customers and employees were inside. The store received extensive damage, but no one was injured.

“I was angry at the pharmacy clerk,” Krueger said previously when asked why he crashed through the store.

The purpose of the psych testing was to “determine his mental state at the time of his offense,” said Bizon previously. Krueger was housed at the psychiatric center during the months-long testing process.

“The forensic center said he was competent to go forward,” Bizon said, “but was legally insane at the time he drove through Shopko. Against his attorney’s advice, he is forgoing that defense and entered a plea.”

“A person can be severely mentally ill and sill be competent,” the prosecutor said. “If a person is found not competent, they are referred to the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry to attempt to rehabilitate the defendant. The forensic center can be given up to 15 months to do so.”

“Mr. Krueger elected to enter a plea to the most serious allegation rather than elect to claim that he was not criminally responsible due to a mental illness. Because he is competent, he is able to make this decision,” Bizon said.

Malicious destruction of a building $20,000 or more is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Krueger remains lodged in the Oceana County Jail on a $100,000/cash/surety bond.

Sentencing is set for Dec. 4 at 8:15 a.m.

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

The crash scene at Shopko May 3, 2017.

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