One Year After Fatal Hit-and-Run, Nashwauk Remembers Toddler Logan Klennert by Planting Trees

Police say 39-year-old Jake Place was under the influence when he killed Logan and injured his aunt, his sentencing is set for October.

NASHWAUK, Minn.- It’s been one year since a fatal hit-and-run in Nashwauk by a driver under the influence took the life of 2-year-old Logan Klennert and injured his 16-year-old aunt. On Sunday, the community honored Logan while spreading the message to drive sober.

Meanwhile, the man charged in the hit-and-run is set to be sentenced this Fall.

“It’s been a really long road and it’s been difficult but we’ve gotten through it,” said Alexia Carroll, Logan’s Aunt.

At the event, the close-knit community also gathered to honor their first responders. “They’ve been there since the beginning, since the day it happened and they’ve always been willing to reach out a hand for us,” Carroll said.

The “day it happened” she mentioned: August 1st, 2019.

While walking at the side of Highway 65 with Logan, a driver struck them and fled, leaving Carroll severely injured with broken bones. “Before my last surgery I was in a lot of pain,” she said, “I still have a lot of like back pain but my foot’s better.”

But the physical pain was overshadowed by emotional pain — 2-year-old Logan died at the scene.

“It’s honestly difficult mentally and emotionally because Logan’s gone. And I was there when he passed,” said Carroll.

On Sunday, Logan’s family decided to honor him in a way that would make him smile — giving away trees. “He always told [my mom] that she needed to plant trees, like ‘oh we gotta plant trees’,” said the 16-year-old.

“The reason we went with the Balsam is because Logan liked to decorate Christmas trees and he got to do it a few times,” Logan’s father Ben Klennert said.

Families were encouraged others to make new family memories planting the trees, while Logan’s parents hold tightly to the two years of memories they have.

“It’s a day-to-day thing and for us as a family we basically do all we can,” said Klennert. “It’s a constant struggle but you do the best you can every day and little events like this kinda help us see who’s all out there.”

At the event outside the Nashwauk Police Station, the Klennert family also encouraged people to donate to the Nashwauk EMS.

“At first I wasn’t really sure what to say. Like obviously they could use the money for medical bills or things that they have as well,” said Tiffany Bodin, EMS Coordinator for Nashwauk’s Ambulance Service.

So, those first responders are funneling that money back into the community. “What we decided to use the money for is to take that and hopefully we can get more CPR classes started in the school and get some of these kids certified before they graduate,” the EMS Coordinator explained.

“It would hopefully get more people started in EMS cause this is always, need people moving forward as well,” she said.

Moving forward has not been easy for the community, especially for Logan’s Mother and Father.

“It was our wedding anniversary so it’s a bit of a bittersweet moment because y’know when you try to celebrate your wedding anniversary there’s always, this is the first anniversary of it happening,” said Ben.

And the call to respond to the hit-and-run last August was one that the emergency personnel will never forget. “Any call that we respond to of course you never really know what you’re going to,” said Bodin. “Going up there, and seeing that it was people you know didn’t make it any easier.”

The man found responsible for the hit-and-run that killed the toddler was 39-year-old Jake Place of Nashwauk. Authorities arrested Blake at a traffic stop in the area after he had fled the scene. During the traffic stop Place admitted to authorities that he “struck a deer or something.”

He was charged with two counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide, among others. More than a year later, Place is scheduled to be sentenced in early October.

One of those Vehicular Homicide counts included driving in a negligent manner while under the influence of a controlled substance.

“When you make the decisions to get behind the wheel impaired it doesn’t just affect you, it effects everyone else’s family that you may have injured while doing so, it affects your first responders, your law enforcement, it affects a lot more people than you think,” Bodin said.

And after one year without the 2-year-old’s smile brightening the small town, it became clear Sunday that Logan’s death affected the whole community.

“We’re basically just looking to spread the memory of Logan and make the importance of family memories,” said Logan’s father. “Every little tree that is planted is a little family memory that these families get to hold onto.”

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