Fort Ripley man pleads guilty to criminal vehicular homicide, admits to fatally hitting wife with SUV

A man charged with fatally hitting his wife with an SUV and letting her die on the roadside last year in Crow Wing County pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide on Wednesday, court records show.

Tony James McClelland, 47, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide as part of a plea deal that saw other charges dropped, including second-degree and first-degree manslaughter.

His wife, 49-year-old Angela Marie McClelland, was found dead along a frontage road on the west side of Highway 371 in Fort Ripley Township, about 15 miles south of Brainerd, on the morning of June 25.

While officers were still identifying her, court documents state that Angela McClelland’s daughter called authorities to report her missing. Officers then learned that she and her husband, Tony McClelland, had been at a birthday party in the area the night before.

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Officers went to the home that hosted the party and talked with several people who confirmed the McClellands had been at the party and left together between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on June 25. They added that they’d both been drinking alcoholic beverages, but Angela looked intoxicated and Tony didn’t, so Tony was driving when they left.

Investigators then went to Tony McClelland’s home and gave the same timeline as others at the party, according to a criminal complaint. However, he added that Angela had “thrown a hissy fit” and they got into an argument, so he dropped her off along Matte Road and left her there while he went home and went to bed. He claimed he didn’t realize she didn’t make it home until he woke up the next morning.

When investigators got a search warrant and searched the McClellands’ Ford Explorer, the complaint states there was blood and tissue in several areas, as well as a single hair. Testing confirmed the DNA from those samples matched Angela’s.

Additionally, location data showed Tony McClelland traveled south on Legend Lane early that morning, stopped around 100 yards south of Killian Road and then backed up toward where his wife’s body was found and stopped, according to the charging documents. Then, the vehicle took off from the scene, reaching speeds over 100 mph before going to the McClelland home.

When officers went back to Tony McClelland’s home, he explained that his wife had gotten mad at him for looking at another woman and was grabbing at the steering wheel. However, he claimed he was “pretty drunk” and told law enforcement, “I don’t remember much after that.”

His sentencing date is set for the afternoon of April 4. The maximum sentence he could face is 15 years in prison.