New warrants note ‘defects’ to Tesla seized after Mille Lacs County doctor’s hit-and-run

A Tesla seized by authorities investigating a hit-and-run that killed a longtime Mille Lacs County doctor had some “defects” to its front passenger side, newly filed court documents state.

Investigators say 56-year-old Cathy Donovan, a family practice physician who worked for Mille Lacs County Health System for 27 years, was fatally hit along Highway 169 while walking her dogs on Nov. 13.

While no arrests or persons of interest have been publicly announced, search warrants filed last month state that investigators seized an Edina man’s Tesla Model X for further investigation. Those warrants noted that a Tesla was the only vehicle seen on surveillance video that traveled through the area where Donovan was hit between the time one witness reported seeing Donovan standing alongside the road and another found Donovan’s body.

The Edina man denied hitting Donovan and an investigator who talked to him before the Tesla was seized noted the Tesla didn’t appear to have any front-end damage.

Newly filed warrants now indicate that the Tesla “appeared to have light front passenger side quarter panel defects, including slight separation between the hood and passenger side quarter panel, slight separation of molding on the passenger side wheel well and the hood appeared to have been slightly moved backward from its original factory position.” However, no blood or dried bodily fluids were found, and DNA swab test results are still pending, the documents add.

Additionally, they state that the Edina man again said that he “does not remember hitting” Donovan but added that if he did, he was alone, had his Tesla on “autopilot” and was doing things like checking work emails, not paying attention to the road.

Mille Lacs County Sheriff Kyle Burton has said investigators believe Donovan was on the hood of the vehicle that hit her “for possibly a couple thousand feet.”

The newest filings ask Google and AT&T to provide the man’s messaging and internet search history data dating back to Nov. 13, the day Donovan was hit.

Last week, after the seizure of the Tesla, Burton told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “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.” However, he also noted, “We’re by no means done with this case” and urged anyone with information to contact the sheriff’s office.

Burton also noted that forensic tests on hair found on the car were still pending at the time, a key piece that could tie the Tesla to Donovan’s hit-and-run.

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.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS isn’t naming the man since he hasn’t been criminally charged or identified as a suspect.

Dr. Cathy Donovan (Mille Lacs Health System)