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Bishop facing homicide charges says he was late for a sermon

A Lutheran bishop told police he was rushing to a Sun Prairie church for a sermon April 7 when his SUV struck and killed distance runner Maureen Mengelt.

A criminal complaint against the Reverend Bruce Burnside, 59, Madison, quoted him as saying he did not have any alcohol or drugs. But police said his blood alcohol level was .128, which is over the state's .08 limit for intoxication.

The 59-year-old Burnside is accused of driving his SUV into a lamp post off a freeway exit ramp, hitting and killing 52-year-old runner Maureen Mengelt and striking another vehicle before stopping at a gas station.

Authorities quoted Burnside as saying he was in a hurry to get to a church sermon in Sun Prairie, and he was fiddling with his radio and a GPS monitor when his vehicle lost control.

The 59-year-old Burnside made his first court appearance this week on Dane County charges of negligent and drunken homicide, and two hit-and-run counts - one for causing death. He pleaded innocent to his hit-and-run misdemeanor. The other charges are felonies.

Burnside posted signature bond Thursday, April 11 and is due back in court May 13. The church has said he entered an inpatient treatment facility.

The ELCA Lutheran Synod in south central Wisconsin will have a temporary leader as Burnside faces criminal charges in a drunk-driving death. The Reverend Blake Rohrer has been appointed as the acting bishop for a synod with 145 Lutheran congregations and 110,000 members.