Cody James Freitag, 31, of Barrett has pleaded guilty to two counts of fleeing a peace officer that resulted in the death of two Fergus Falls residents on Oct. 2, 2020.
According to the amended plea agreement, Freitag will serve 210 months or around 17 1/2 years in prison on the first count, while with count two, he will serve 225 months, roughly 19 years. The sentences will be served concurrently. Freitag was originally charged with two counts of causing a homicide while fleeing a peace officer and two counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Each of the fleeing charges potentially could have carried a maximum of 40 years in prison.
The incident began after Freitag began fleeing two undercover Otter Tail County deputies.
According to court records, Otter Tail County sheriff’s deputies were involved in an undercover operation to arrest Freitag on several outstanding felony warrants at the Casey’s General Store on North Union Avenue.
While parked at the entrance of the store, Freitag struck a deputy’s squad car, jumped the curb, and drove through the grass before speeding westbound on Fir Avenue. Deputies pursued with Freitag continuing southbound on North Tower Road. Sheriff’s deputies continued pursuit with Freitag continuing southeast onto College Way turning eastbound on Cavour Avenue, eventually travelling eastbound on Cavour at high rates of speed. Freitag ran the stop sign at Union Avenue and crashed into a 2007 Toyota Camry with the force of the impact propelling two vehicles off of the roadway and into the parking lot on West Cavour Avenue, killing Steve and Diane Christianson of Fergus Falls.
Freitag will be formally sentenced in the plea on Nov. 1.
The case also closes a chapter for Otter Tail County, also bringing to light and spawning another separate case for former sheriff’s deputy, Kelly Backman.
Backman and another deputy, who were involved in the incident with Freitag were both asked to provide a voluntary blood sample immediately following the crash. Backman refused to provide a blood sample but did provide a preliminary breath test that showed no presence of alcohol. Backman was observed and accompanied at the sheriff’s office until a blood sample could be drawn. The results of the sample indicated that Backman tested positive for alprazolam (an anti-anxiety med), which he was prescribed, but also fentanyl and norfentanyl, a Schedule II controlled substance, while acting in his official capacity as a deputy.