Investigators seize Edina man’s Tesla in fatal hit-and-run of Mille Lacs County doctor
Newly filed court documents indicate that investigators may have made a breakthrough in the case of a longtime family doctor who was hit and killed while walking her dogs in Mille Lacs County.
Cathy Donovan, 56, a family practice physician who’d been with Mille Lacs County Health System for 27 years, ran home to walk her dogs on Nov. 13, something coworkers say she did regularly. However, as she walked her dogs, she was hit while trying to cross Highway 169 shortly before 5 p.m.
The Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office previously released a picture and description of the suspect vehicle, and Sheriff Kyle Burton has said investigators believe Donovan was on the hood of the vehicle that her her “for possibly a couple thousand feet.”
According to a search warrant, two people in the area told investigators that they saw a body on the hood of a northbound vehicle in the area where Donovan was found and at around that time.
Agents searched cellphone data to determine people who were in the area at the time Donovan was hit. One of those people, an adult male from Edina, told investigators he regularly drives that route on his way to his cabin in Cross Lake but wasn’t certain if that was the case on Nov. 13. He does, however, drive a dark gray 2022 Tesla Model X, according to court documents.
While the man, who is not yet charged, denied hitting Donovan, the warrant notes that investigators reviewed surveillance video of the area and a Tesla matching the Edina man’s was the only vehicle that traveled northbound in that area of Highway 169 between the time one witness reported seeing Donovan standing alongside the road and another found Donovan’s body.
Burton told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Wednesday that the warrant has “a lot of very specific information” and “some very interesting facts.” He also discussed the bar to even obtain a warrant, saying, “you need to establish some probable cause,” and called the Tesla a “vehicle of interest.”
The documents note that the Edina man’s Tesla didn’t have any front-end damage when an investigator talked to him earlier this month.
The warrant filed allowed investigators to seize his Tesla, keypad, cellphone and a thumb drive from the Tesla to try to review any data the Tesla may have or relevant search history related to Donovan or repairs to his Tesla. He told investigators that he hasn’t submitted any damage claims for the Tesla since Nov. 13 and said he’d see if the Tesla had any video footage from that day. However, the warrant says he never called investigators back.
“I think we’re definitely closer than we were, this is probably one of the bigger breaks that we’ve had in the case … I would say this is the most significant piece that we’ve had thus far,” Burton said.
“I trust the process, sometimes it’s slow but I trust the team and I trust the process and I trust the science behind it and I think eventually we’ll be able to say with a little bit more certainty that yes this is the car or not,” Burton said, noting that forensic tests on hair found on the car are still pending.
Donovan’s family and investigators announced a $10,000 reward for information on her death last month, and the hospital system recently updated its billboards to ask for tips in the case.
Burton added, “We’re by no means done with this case” so anyone with any information is asked to report it to the sheriff’s office.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS isn’t naming the man since he hasn’t been criminally charged or identified as a suspect.