Lena man pleads no contest to Oconto woman's 2019 drunken driving death




  • In US
  • 2022-05-25 22:42:05Z
  • By Green Bay Press-Gazette
Travis Ragen of Lena leaves Oconto County Circuit Court on Wednesday after pleading no contest to homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle filed over a Nov.
Travis Ragen of Lena leaves Oconto County Circuit Court on Wednesday after pleading no contest to homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle filed over a Nov.  

OCONTO - A Lena man pleaded no contest Wednesday to the drunken driving death of an Oconto woman 2½ years ago.

Travis J. Ragen, 33, faces 15 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision for homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

He also pleaded no contest to misdemeanor bail jumping in a separate case.

Ragen entered the pleas to the charges as part of plea agreement with District Attorney Edward Burke, who will recommend Ragen serve 7½ years in prison and eight years of extended supervision, and a consecutive nine months of incarceration for the bail jumping.

As part of the agreement, 14 other charges filed in three cases were dismissed by Judge Michael T. Judge, who scheduled sentencing for July 29.

The fiery crash on Nov. 15, 2019, about 5 miles west of Oconto resulted in the death of Melissa Cota, 53.

According to the accident report, Ragen's pickup left the roadway about 11 p.m. and entered the shoulder of westbound State 22 near Logtown Road.

As he drove back onto the highway, the trailer he was hauling - loaded with a skid-steer - began skidding sideways, causing the pickup to begin to rotate counter-clockwise and cross into the eastbound lane and into the path of Cota's car.

Cota attempted to avoid the crash by braking and turning away from the pickup, straddling the roadway and the shoulder.

As described in the criminal complaint, the front passenger side of the pickup collided with the front end of the car. The impact caused the trailer to become airborne and flip the pickup on top of the passenger car. The two vehicles then moved as one across the eastbound gravel shoulder and into the ditch.

The accident was initially reported as a one-vehicle rollover in the ditch, with the vehicle on fire.

That's because Cota's car - pinned underneath Ragen's truck in the ditch - was hidden from view and not discovered until several moments after the first two Oconto County deputies arrived and explosions rocked the vehicles, the complaint states.

Ragen, who was dragged to safety by deputy moments earlier, received a broken hip and leg, along with facial lacerations.

He was originally charged with second-degree reckless homicide. After a lab test showed he had a 0.21% blood alcohol content after the crash, additional charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and homicide by use of a vehicle with prohibited alcohol content - were filed. The maximum legal limit is 0.08%.

Ragen had been free after posting $10,000 cash bond following his initial appearance on Dec. 12, 2019.

However, he's been in custody since Oct. 6, when his bond was increased to $110,000 after he was charged with four counts of felony bail jumping. A former girlfriend told an Oconto County Sheriff's investigator that Ragen had been drinking in 2020 and 2021, in violation of the absolute sobriety condition of the original bond.

On Jan. 25, another eight charges were filed after a second former girlfriend claimed Ragen had violated his bond by consuming alcohol in several incidents in September 2020.

In the most serious of those allegations, the woman alleged she and Ragen went on an evening boat ride. But it was dark by the time they head back, and the boat - which had no lights - hit something in the water, nearly knocking them off the craft and breaking his arm.

Ragen was charged with two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, four counts of felony bail jumping, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and causing injury by intoxicated boat operation.

One of those felony bail jumping charges was amended to a misdemeanor, to which Ragen pleaded no contest on Wednesday.

RELATED: Police pursuit from Shawano County ends with crash in Oconto County

FOR MORE OCONTO COUNTY NEWS: Check out our website!

Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or ktempus@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Lena man pleads no contest to Oconto woman's 2019 drunk driving death

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