Lena man sentenced to prison for fiery crash that killed Oconto woman

Travis Ragen. Photo: Oconto County Jail
Travis Ragen. Photo: Oconto County Jail(WBAY)
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Lena man has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for a fiery crash that killed an Oconto woman.

On July 29, Travis Ragen, 33, appeared before an Oconto County judge for a sentencing hearing in the death of Melissa J. Cota.

In addition to the nine years in state prison, the judge ordered Ragen to serve six years on extended supervision.

In May, Ragen pleaded no contest to a count of Homicide by Intoxicated Use of a Vehicle. Charges of 2nd Degree Reckless Homicide and Homicide by Use of Vehicle with PAC were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

The crash happened Nov. 15, 2019. The Oconto County Sheriff’s Office was called to State Highway 22 at Logtown Road in the Town of Oconto.

A criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News states investigators determined Ragen was traveling west on the highway when he crossed the center line and hit the front end of a passenger car driven by Cota, 53.

Ragen’s pickup was pulling a skidsteer on a trailer. The trailer went “airborne” and the pickup truck flipped on top of the car.

“The two vehicles now act as one and began to travel across the eastbound gravel shoulder into the ditch where they came to rest,” reads the criminal complaint. “The trailer with the skidsteer still attached disconnects from the pickup truck by tearing the hitch off of the truck. The right side tandem wheels on the trailer gouged into the blacktop causing the trailer and skidsteer to overturn before coming to rest on its side.”

Oconto County Deputy Alex Scray pulled Ragen out of the pickup truck seconds before the vehicle burst into flames.

Oconto County Deputy Kevin Christensen ran to the truck to see if there were other passengers to rescue. He saw a dog trapped in the backseat area of the truck, but was unable to rescue the animal. The deputy reported witnessing several small explosions.

This is the moment when Deputy Christensen noticed there was a second vehicle in flames pinned under the truck bed. He found the body of Melissa Cota in the car.

The complaint says a deputy noticed the “odor of intoxicants emitting from Travis [Ragen]” at the scene.

While out on bond, Ragen was charged in a separate case. Counts included 1st-Degree Recklessly Endangering Safety, Operate Firearm While Intoxicated, Cause Injury/Intoxicated Boat Operation, and Bail Jumping. As part of the plea deal above, Ragen pleaded no contest to misdemeanor bail jumping. Other counts were dismissed.

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