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‘Didn’t have it hooked up tight:’ Probation for semi driver whose trailer struck oncoming vehicle

Terry Degree

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee man charged in connection with a fatal crash between a semi and SUV in Menomonee Falls in December 2017 was sentenced to probation Monday, May 13.

Terry Degree, 62, on Monday pleaded no contest to two felony charges:

  • Homicide by negligent handling of a dangerous weapon/explosive
  • Second degree recklessly endangering safety

Degree was sentenced to serve three years’ probation on each conviction, along with 75 hours of community service. He was sentenced to 90 days’ conditional jail time with Huber release, but that was stayed to be used at the probation agent’s discretion.

The wreck happened around 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, 2017 on Boundary Road just south of County Line Road.

An investigation indicated a southbound semi tractor/trailer was involved in a collision with an SUV that had been northbound on the two-lane road.

One person in the SUV was pronounced dead at the scene — identified as 84-year-old Robert Langnes of Mequon.  A second person in the SUV, a 73-year-old woman, was taken to a hospital by Flight for Life with serious injuries.

Fatal crash in Menomonee Falls

According to the criminal complaint, Degree told police he had just dropped off a trailer at his employer — and picked up another trailer. The complaint said “after going across railroad tracks, the trailer became disconnected from his tractor and struck an oncoming vehicle.”

Fatal crash in Menomonee Falls

Degree told police he immediately pulled over to the side of the road and exited his truck. He stated, “he did not realize that another vehicle had been struck by the trailer until a witness came up behind him and told him that 911 had been called.”

Upon further questioning, especially about the connection between Degree’s truck and trailer, Degree told investigators “he believes that the locking mechanism that locks the kingpin into the coupler may not have been all the way across, allowing the trailer to slip out.” The complaint indicated when Degree was talking with another officer, he “made a spontaneous comment to (the officer) as follows, ‘I didn’t have it hooked up tight.'”

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