Woman charged with providing alcohol in Fond du Lac County teens’ crash deaths

The teens died when their speeding car crashed into a tree
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 10:28 AM CDT|Updated: May. 18, 2023 at 4:44 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A 27-year-old woman from Fond du Lac is formally charged in connection with a crash that killed two teenagers in Taycheedah in January.

Sanju Paudel made her first appearance in Fond du Lac County court early Thursday afternoon on two counts of providing alcohol to a minor resulting in death.

The judge set her bond at $25,000 cash -- half of what the prosecution had asked for. As conditions of her bond, Paudel is required to surrender her passport and can’t leave the state or the country without court approval; must stay out of bars and maintain absolute sobriety; and can’t work in any establishment that sells alcohol, nicotine, or THC products.

”Obviously these are very significant and very serious charges stemming from some horrendous factual circumstances,” said Laura Lavey, Fond du Lac County Judge.

“Adults have a responsibility to protect children and certainly when alcohol is involved that level of protection is heightened,” noted Eric Toney, District Attorney, Fond du Lac County.

Both the state and defense confirm that Paudel left the country for a period of time while investigators looked into the crash.

”If she was going to run to Nepal she would’ve just stayed in Nepal at that time but she came back after knowing she was under investigation. I do have her passport with me here – she’s willing to surrender that today,” said Defense Attorney Jeffrey Guerard.

The defense described Paudel’s roots in Fond du Lac, living in the city and running a business alongside her husband. She has no criminal record.

”The court does have some concern given the severity of the charges as well as the significant penalties that Miss Paudel faces, " Judge Lavey said when setting the cash bond.

According to the criminal complaint, Paudel was the clerk at a gas station who sold beer and rum without checking the purchaser’s identification. Hours later, the teens’ speeding car hit a tree along Golf Course Dr. in Taycheedah, killing two, including the driver, who purchased the alcohol.

Another teen in the car survived and called 911. She told police at one point she heard the driver say they were going 100 miles per hour.

Also according to the criminal complaint, Nevins Zoch and Tommy Koenigs, both 16, and other teens were at an underage drinking party at a house on Golf Course Dr. while the parents weren’t home.

One witness said about 12 hours before the crash, they went to the business of one of the victims’ parents to get some money, then they went to a gas station on Fond du Lac Ave. and bought two 30-can packs of Busch Light and a bottle of Captain Morgan rum.

The witness said they didn’t use fake ID, and the clerk, later identified as Sanju Paudel, never carded them.

One of the victims’ cellphones placed them at an Amoco gas station on County D at 7:39 the night before the crash. Detectives reviewed video that showed the victims going into the store and picking up Busch Light and bottles of rum. The clerk started the transaction but then canceled it and put the alcohol back.

Surveillance video from the Shell gas station on Fond du Lac Ave. shows Koenigs entered that store about 15 minutes later and purchased beer and the rum. The video doesn’t show Paudel asking for any identification. The complaint says the video shows Koenigs leaving with the beer -- and the rum, after the clerk handed it to him. Then Koenig came back into the store and appeared to be buying vape cartridges. Again, Paudel wasn’t seen asking for ID to show if he was 18.

Zoch was in the front passenger seat and died of a head injury before first responders arrived. Koenigs, was airlifted to a hospital and passed away later.

An autopsy showed Koenigs had a blood-alcohol level of 0.123.

On March 5, deputies went to the gas station to make contact with Paudel and were told she’s been out of the country since the crash. The court was told Paudel has family ties outside of the country and was in Nepal after the crash happened but came back. She has lived in Fond du Lac with her husband since 2019.

Each charge Paudel faces carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison and a potential $25,000 fine.

A 27-year-old woman from Fond du Lac is formally charged in connection with a crash that killed two teenagers in Taycheedah in January.