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Lutheran bishop denies driving drunk in fatal crash


SUN PRAIRIE, Wis (WSAU)   A Lutheran bishop told police he was rushing to a Sun Prairie church for a sermon last Sunday, when his S-U-V struck-and-killed distance runner Maureen Mengelt. A criminal complaint against the Reverend Bruce Burnside quoted him as saying he did not have any alcohol or drugs. But police said his blood alcohol level was point-128, over one-and-a-half times the state’s limit for intoxication. The 59-year-old Burnside made his first court appearance yesterday on Dane County charges of negligent-and-drunken homicide, and two hit-and-run counts – one for causing death. He pleaded innocent to his hit-and-run misdemeanor. The other charges are felonies.

A $150,000 cash bond was expected to be modified to a signature bond today, and he’s due back in court May 13th.

According to witnesses, Burnside had just left the Highway 151 freeway when he crossed a median and knocked down a lamp-post, struck-and-killed Mengelt, hit a vehicle at an intersection, and stopped at a nearby gas station where police arrested him. Burnside told officers he was adjusting his radio and looking at his G-P-S monitor as he left the freeway ramp. He said he hit his brakes, but made no mention of seeing the 52-year-old Mengelt. She was training for a 20-mile run in Stoughton next month.

Burnside remains the bishop of the Madison Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, serving 145 congregations and 110-thousand Lutherans in south central Wisconsin. The church says it will say more about the matter today.