Woman's blood alcohol content topples state records

2009-12-30T09:15:00Z 2011-01-04T05:45:11Z Woman's blood alcohol content topples state recordsAndrea J. Cook Journal staff Rapid City Journal
December 30, 2009 9:15 am  • 

A Sturgis woman had a blood-alcohol level of .708 percent, possibly a state record, when she was found earlier this month behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle parked on Interstate 90, according to Meade County State’s Attorney Jesse Sondreal.

A South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper discovered Marguerite Engle, 45, on Dec. 1 passed out behind the wheel of a delivery truck reported stolen in Rapid City.

Her blood-alcohol level was almost nine times South Dakota’s legal limit of .08 percent.

Checks with local and state labs where blood-alcohol levels are tested suggest Engle’s reading may be the highest ever recorded in South Dakota, Sondreal said.

Sondreal said a state chemist recalled a sample that tested .53, but nothing higher, in his more than 30 years on the job.

Dr. Robert Looyenga, who recently retired from the Rapid City Police Department’s forensic laboratory, told Sondreal that the highest blood-alcohol sample he tested measured .56 percent.

Sondreal’s research indicates that a blood-alcohol level of .40 is considered a lethal dose for about 50 percent of the population.

“Engle’s was almost double that,” Sondreal said.

After she was found, Engle was hospitalized and freed on bond.

She failed to appear in court on Dec. 15, but Sturgis police located her Monday evening in another stolen car sitting in a ditch along S.D. Highway 34 near Fort Meade.

Engle was arrested for second offense driving under the influence and taken to jail.

Engle made her initial appearance in Meade County magistrate court Tuesday. She is being held without bond.

Sondreal said Engle has been living in a hotel after recently moving here from Minnesota.

Engle is most likely facing charges in Pennington County since both vehicles were stolen in Rapid City, Sondreal said.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(23) Comments

  1. Moravec
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    Moravec - January 16, 2010 12:44 pm
    she's my HERO!!! good luck girl
  2. Merna
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    Merna - January 04, 2010 11:06 am
    Beverly: you stated: millions of people have problems but they don't run out, get drunk, steal cars, and pass out on the highway. Your correct, others over eat, smoke more cigarettes, use a crutch to place blame on others, etc, etc.

    I was simply trying to explain that every human being has a breaking point, and sometimes life seems to be more than what we know (how) to deal with a problem. Such as the story I told. Never every person that drinks is an alcoholic, not every DWI and/or DUI is a result of someone that has a drinking problem.

    I think that Quevol stated it in very similar terms, According to this article, this lady is 45 years old, and has never been convicted of drunk driving, at least in the past decade. Suddenly, within 3 weeks, these 2 events which are rather serious, something that usually has a history leading up to it (prior convictions). It’s obvious something happened or she is dealing with something that most of us cannot comprehend. That doesn’t excuse her behavior, but might provide an explanation for it. In some instances, when that reason is of sufficient magnitude, we can at least understand if not condone.

    All the facts have to be presented, not just a portion of the facts, and I ask you Beverly, Do you and others know all the facts? If not I would be careful judging a book by its cover. And we all know that this article DOES NOT present to us all the facts pertaining to this case.

    God Bless All of Us that are so quick to judge another person, especially a person whom we do not know, and do not know the entirety of the facts pertaining to this situation.


  3. Colleen
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    Colleen - January 01, 2010 6:06 am
    The article doesn't indicate whether the suspect had a blood sample taken, or if the BAC was determined by a breath analyzer.

    Quevol - since you skipped some comments, you should know that a great philosopher on this forum thinks you have no "smarts" and has also proclaimed the suspect guilty.
  4. snideprime
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    snideprime - December 31, 2009 4:42 pm
    While the math wizards among us debate the figures, and the skeptics shout that the test results must be wrong, one fact remains. The woman was found PASSED OUT DRUNK on the highway two separate times in two stolen vehicles. She needs to be locked up for her own safety as well as everybody else's!
  5. Palin Rocks
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    Palin Rocks - December 30, 2009 9:08 pm
    quevol--your dislike for palin shows your lack of maturity, smarts and common sense.
  6. Palin Rocks
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    Palin Rocks - December 30, 2009 9:07 pm
    breathtester----it was a blood test. not a breathalyzer.
  7. lindashroyer
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    lindashroyer - December 30, 2009 7:32 pm
    For Petes sake, why is it so hard to understand the .70 reading? In the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest reading was 1. . A person could have that high a reading drinking and using cocaine at the same time also. I am a supervisor at a drug and alcohol facility with a Masters Degree. I had a person in my care before that had a .60. So why is this so hard to believe? To me it's almost routine. I'm from Maryland so maybe we drink more.
  8. breathtester
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    breathtester - December 30, 2009 6:47 pm
    To add additional weight to the hypothesis that this breathalyzer reading was an error I note that professional Law Enforcement breathalyzers such as those manufacturerd by Lifeloc Technologies and others are DOT Approved at /- .005 BAC to .100 BAC, /-5% from .100 to .400BAC. Over .400BAC, the fatal level for most of us, the reading would become increasingly suspect.
  9. Jason
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    Jason - December 30, 2009 3:46 pm
    Nelag T,

    Ya, I was kinda joking with Crazy Chris since they seemed to put for the right logic, in general. However, you are still aren't talking about percentage. A difference of .148 isn't the same as 14.8%. I know its just a matter of where to put the decimal point, but the upper limit isn't 1.0, its 100. Its an order of magnitude off and it isn't a percentage change.

    The important point to take away from this is that this is such a huge departure from the norm that the cops, the prosecutor, the lab, and the defense attorney should all being thinking test failure.
  10. Nelag T
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    Nelag T - December 30, 2009 2:50 pm
    Jason / Crazy Chris...a little miscommunication, but you are both correct.

    The correct sentence should either be:
    "0.708% is 0.148% greater than 0.560%."

    "0.708 is a 26.6% increase from 0.560."

    gotta love technical writing
  11. Jason
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    Jason - December 30, 2009 1:51 pm
    I am not a chemist, so if there are any chemists out there speak up and tell me if I am wrong. But I did take *a lot* of chemistry in high school and college, and I have a degree in math. It would seem that from my experience doing chem experiments back in the day that you will occasionally have an error doing any chemistry, no matter how sophisticated the equipment or testing procedure. A machine can be miscalibrated. Testing supplies can be contaminated. Proper procedures can be ignored. This level would lead me to believe that it was a problem with the test, and not the actual level.

    From a math perspective, if .560 is truly the highest level seen in the last 30 years before this, then this is 27% above the previous high (not claiming that took any real math though Crazy Chris's comment below got it wrong). This number is way outside the norm, and I would think that if one were to plot all the blood alcohol levels this number would sit far above the curve. This is an indication of something very wrong. What is more likely, that this woman's body is some sort of genetic freak that can survive an alcohol level that might kill 2 other people? Or that there was a testing failure?

    Crazy Chris, here is the algebra for that:

    0.560x = 0.709

    x = 0.709/0.560

    x = 1.266

    26.6% higher

    Of course I am not following any rules here for significant digits...
  12. beverly
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    beverly - December 30, 2009 1:13 pm
    Quevol....because someone didn't die THIS time..its cool? cry me a river for her and her problems. millions of people have problems but they don't run out, get drunk, steal cars and pass out on the highway. by some extreme stroke of luck she didn't wipe anyone out.
  13. adhdja
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    adhdja - December 30, 2009 12:55 pm
    Put a drunk into prison for a while and what you get is a drunk that comes out. We need to give a person with an alcohol or drug problem every opportunity to help themselves. Sometimes that help will work and sometimes not. I don't really care what the jail time is for dwi's, just that there should be treatment available.
  14. Quevol
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    Quevol - December 30, 2009 11:10 am
    Crazy Chris : Exactly my first thought.
    nonbeliever : Why does everyone think life is the ultimate prize? There are too many things to mention that are far worse than death. Maybe she wanted to die.
    engine173351 : Correct.
    Cummalitive Points : Correct.
    Palin Rocks : Don’t have to read more than your screen name to know you have nothing to contribute.
    DeOgee : I'm tired of hearing excuses for everything. So what? Unless you have a magic potion to change the animal instincts of human nature, you are going to have to live with it. Nevertheless, I didn’t hear this person making excuses.
    beverly : Was someone killed or injured in this story?

    According to this article, this lady is 45 years old, and has never been convicted of drunk driving, at least in the past decade. Suddenly, within 3 weeks, these 2 events which are rather serious, something that usually has a history leading up to it (prior convictions). It’s obvious something happened or she is dealing with something that most of us can not comprehend. That doesn’t excuse her behavior, but might provide an explanation for it. In some instances, when that reason is of sufficient magnitude, we can at least understand if not condone.
  15. Rush Mountmore
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    Rush Mountmore - December 30, 2009 11:01 am
    I'm against promoting more legislation, but this one might work.

    A Bill:

    Five years automatic prison time, irrevocable for anyone passing this historic blood alcohol level while driving.
  16. beverly
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    beverly - December 30, 2009 9:52 am
    hey merna...NO..i dont agree. how about some of that "compassion" for the innocent victims of these drunk drivers? the drunks choose to drive..the victims don't choose to be maimed or worse.
    personal responsibility and growing up is whats called for.
  17. DeOgee
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    DeOgee - December 30, 2009 9:30 am
    I'm tired of hearing excuses for drinking and driving. Quit blaming your mom and dad and quit drinking and driving. Grow up and take some responsibility for your life.
  18. Palin Rocks
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    Palin Rocks - December 29, 2009 8:35 pm
    no Merna I don't agree. you can only get help if you WANT to be helped. She obviously doesn't. so off to jail with her, keep her away from us for at least a couple years.
  19. Merna
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    Merna - December 29, 2009 8:13 pm
    It appears this lady doesn't have much of a will to live. Please take time to read my following post and you will understand where I am coming from.
    I will pray for this lady, even though I do not know her because there is a problem and I pray our justice systems will in fact someday have a broader view in reference to cases sush at this one and many other.......
    This is a story that should show that God has a time picked when our life is to come to an end. I was a nurse for 13 ½ years, and this is unbelievable that this women lived with a blood alcohol level of .708.
    However, did you notice the fact that this article states that after this woman was released on bond she was found again in “another” stolen vehicle and was intoxicated?
    I believe in the program: Mothers against drunk drivers, however; in the scope of this program I feel it need a broadening out with its data base. In other words, we read articles such as these and many others in reference to drunk drivers, people dyeing with alcohol poisoning etc. So many times the case scenario is DWI and DUI offenses start with a probation sentencing, losing a driver’s licenses for X-number of months etc, etc, and then reaches a point where subjects are sentenced to jail and/or prison, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we the public can’t pick up a newspaper and read about a DWI and/or DUI charge.
    Years ago while I was a nurse a young female subject was brought into a medical facility for a blood alcohol test to be done. She was way over her limit, and it was discovered she was pregnant. While working under the direction of a kindred hearted doctor I ask if I may have permission to speak with this young female. During our conversation I explained what alcohol could do to the baby she was caring, and it was a sad thing for a baby to be born addicted to alcohol at the very beginning of its life. As our conversation continued this young female stated, “you don’t understand” As she told her story, she had lost her mother at the age of eleven, she lived with her dad whom was a hard worker but they had struggled through life on his low income job to make ends meet. She stated her dad always made sure she had nice clothing for school, food on the table and a roof over her head, and she remembered nights that her dad said he wasn’t hungry, but realized later that her dad had gone hungry so she was able to go to bed with a full stomach. She said her dad worked long hard hours to support her and to make sure she could continue in her sports activities etc, so she could have a better life being educated then he was as a non-educated person. While in her last year of school she got involved with a young man and she stated she felt so good to have someone to share secrets with and to be held and love. She became pregnant. When she told her dad she was pregnant she said he didn’t scream at her, or even showed anger, but stated well you made a bad choice and we will get through this. She said her dad went to work and made a baby crib, a beautiful baby crib, and little by little had bought items for the baby so she would have the items when the baby was born. Then one day upon her arrival home from school she discovered in her dad’s bedroom he had taken his life with a single gun shoot wound to his head, but had left a note saying how much he loved her and his unborn grandchild, but because family members blamed him for his wife’s death as they had, had an argument over finances and his wife left the house and was killed in a single auto accident family members thought and blamed her dad saying her mother got killed because she left the house that night in anger and wrecked her vehicle. He told her how much he loved her and he wanted to make sure she had the necessities for the baby when born, but felt other family members could help her out more and in her condition than he, so stated he took his life so her and her baby could have life. Because of this family members shunned her stating she killed her dad by not being responsible and getting pregnant. So she said I drink and drink to kill the pain. I don’t know how else to cope with the pain, when I am sober I can see my dad lying across his bed in that puddle of blood and then leaving me a note saying he died to give my baby and I life.
    I went out and told the attending physician this story. He went out and stated to law enforcement he was admitting this young lady because of her pregnancy and being intoxicated. This doctor ended up going through the court systems, (after he checked into the situation and found what the young female had told was the truth) having this young lady released in the care of him and his wife. He got professional help for this young lady and today this female person is an OBGYN.
    I shared this story because I question the fact if jails and prisons are the answers to people that have a problem with alcohol. For some (maybe)! But in my opinion, I think our justice systems throughout our nation should consider building facilities that help people with addictions, prisons and jails DO NOT! Our nation always wants to build new prisons and more prisons because our prison systems are overcrowded.
    Our Justice Systems are using our prisons as a solution to all “crimes” when in fact I think our government and politicians should be looking in other directions in helping some people other than sending them to an already overcrowded prison. Don’t You Agree?

  20. Cummalitive Points
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    Cummalitive Points - December 29, 2009 8:07 pm
    holy toledo batman....hang over is right...but remember..everyone is innocent until proven guilty so lets not hang this person before trial
  21. engine173351
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    engine173351 - December 29, 2009 7:06 pm
    So this is the type of nonsense that taxpayers have to suffer from? I'm grateful that the woman survived such a high level of alcohol. But it seems as if no one complains about having their tax money go to something as frivilous as this. Yet, when people need assistance with propane, food, medical care, and snow removal, then the protesting begins.
  22. nonbeliever
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    nonbeliever - December 29, 2009 5:46 pm
    Sounds to me like....

    If law enforcement HADN'T found her when they did, she could of, would of, probably died!

    THANK YOU LAW ENFORCEMENT, EMT, S
  23. Crazy Chris
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    Crazy Chris - December 29, 2009 5:36 pm
    Holy Hangover!!! I am not doubting this woman was driving while under the influence of alcohol but, .708!?!?!? Does anybody else find it ironic that Dr. Looyenga who was labeled a pro-state witness by Judge Fuller has only seen a .56 in over 30 years as the state chemist and only a couple months after he retires there is a .708? That is 14.8% higher then anything Dr. Looyenga has seen. If that isn't suspect I don't know what is. I think the state better be checking on the credentials of the new chemist or be recalibrating the fixed head space on the gas chromatograph!!!
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