Driver in fatal crash pleads guilty

MARQUETTE – A Powell Township woman will be sentenced in Marquette County Circuit Court next month after pleading guilty Friday to leaving the scene of an accident that killed a 21-year-old Big Bay man last February.

Amy Lynn Tierrablanca, 34, of Big Bay will remain free on bond pending her sentencing, which is scheduled for April 5. She had been set for a jury trial, tentatively scheduled to start next week.

The Feb. 4, 2012, crash killed Michael Tyler Abbott. Michigan State Police at the Negaunee regional post were dispatched shortly after 3 a.m. that day to a single vehicle rollover accident that occurred on Marquette County Road 550, just south of County Road KH near Big Bay.

Police said a northbound vehicle ran off the roadway, hit a snowbank, rolled and then struck the guy wire of a utility pole. First responders found Abbott trapped inside the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Troopers talked with several witnesses and allegedly identified Tierrablanca as the driver of the vehicle.

Marquette City Police Department officers assisted troopers by interviewing witness Clarissa Bean at Marquette General Hospital, who had been hurt while riding in the crashed vehicle. Troopers said the 21-year-old Bean of Big Bay sought her own treatment for injuries and was later released from the hospital.

Tierrablanca was initially charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a fine of $2,500 to $10,000.

Attorney Karl Numinen, who is representing Tierrablanca, said Friday he and the Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office worked out an agreement on changing the charge and on sentencing.

As a result, Tierrablanca pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

“Essentially, it removed the alcohol component,” Numinen said.

Numinen said prosecutors agreed to lower the guideline range for sentencing.

“She could have been looking at 57 months and the prosecution agreed to no more than 19 months,” Numinen said.

Numinen has also been permitted to argue for a jail sentence, rather than prison, for his client.

“Judge (Thomas) Solka made two very significant rulings on evidence that prompted plea bargain negotiations,” Numinen said.

Numinen said Solka denied a defense motion to suppress the blood alcohol results in the case. Conversely, he granted a separate Numinen motion to suppress an accident report of a state police traffic reconstructionist because the report was not received by the defense until a week ago.

An obituary stated Abbott was born in Omaha, Neb., and raised there until he moved to Big Bay with his family in 1998. He was a Negaunee High School graduate and worked for the Kiskis Logging Co.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is