The woman who struck and killed Wayzata Police Officer Bill Mathews last September on Highway 12 while reportedly under the influence of drugs is expected to plead guilty to a single count of criminal vehicular homicide Friday morning, a conviction that would land her with a likely eight-year or more prison sentence.
Beth Freeman's son, friends and siblings—even a therapist—all sent letters into court Thursday describing the admitted drug addict as troubled but with a big, caring heart who always put family first. In fact, they said she was on the way to help her brother with his wife's funeral that day.
"I can honestly say few people have the ability to genuinely love others like my mother," wrote Lucas Brown, one of Freeman's children. "She without a doubt has felt the weight and repercussions of her actions."
Authorities believe the 54-year-old was on cocaine at the time of the crash, according to a search warrant, with Freeman also admitting to police she was talking on the phone and receiving text messages in the moments before striking Officer Mathews. He was clearing debris from the roadway at the time.
Drug paraphernalia found in her car tested positive for cocaine, officials said. She also admitted to talking on the phone and receiving text messages in the moments before the crash.
For those who loved the Wayzata officer, Friday's sentencing hearing will bring closure to the criminal justice component of the case but will do nothing for the emotional scars that remain. Any sentence, Mathews' family and friends say, will be inadequate without bringing the officer back.
“It’s a fair sentence, I suppose if you’re talking about sentencing guidelines," Wayzata Police Chief Michael Risvold said. "But when you talk about Bill’s family and police family, it’s not fair at all.”
In fact, after Freeman's sentencing hearing Friday morning Mathews' family, former coworkers and nearly three dozen others from the community will head to Washington D.C., where Mathews' name will be formally dedicated on the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial alongside roughly 120 others who were killed in the line of duty last year.
They're hoping that by sharing the story it will have an impact on the roads, with fewer people engaging in distracted driving or driving under the influence.
“If one person puts down their phone and pays attention based on what happened. Or decides not to drive impaired and get a ride. Just one person," Risvold said. "Something good can come from this awful tragedy.”