Hit-and-run driver sentenced to decade-plus in prison

A Ramsey County judge has sentenced a motorist who fled the scene of a deadly St. Paul crash to more than 11 years in prison.

The hit-and-run driver has a lengthy criminal record, and the victim’s family believes it is not enough time for the loss of their mother and grandmother.

"Having this whole process hanging over our heads, it's just been hard. It's been hard to get that closure. So I think I'll leave today with closure," said Alison Annen’s daughter, Jennifer Cook following Friday’s sentencing.

It has been a long road for Annen’s family, who spent months looking for the defendant, Xia Her-Xiong after he failed to show up for his initial sentencing in March.

"There's never enough time he could possibly get. My mom's gone. He still gets freedom. I hope he realizes that. And he is thankful for that," explained Jessica Ziolkowski, another daughter of Annen’s. The family argued for stiffer consequences for criminal vehicular homicide cases in Minnesota.

Ziolkowski told FOX 9’s Paul Blume, "It's not an accident when you steal a car and you flee police. It's not an accident. And 120 months for my mom's life is not enough."

It was nearly two years ago now, January 2021, when an apparently drunk Her-Xiong was behind the wheel of a stolen vehicle and slammed into Annen’s little PT cruiser on the streets of St. Paul. The 60-year-old Annen was killed. A passenger in her car was seriously injured.

Annen’s loved ones say, adding insult to their loss was the journey through the criminal justice system.

"I want to put it behind me," said Cook. "I felt the judge did the most she could do. It’s just unfortunate that a homicide can only carry ten years for taking someone's life. It's not fair."

The family remains upset Her-Xiong, who has a lengthy criminal record was allowed out on bail after the deadly crash. 

After he failed to show up for the March sentencing, it led them to invest blood, sweat and tears trying to find him themselves. Their homemade wanted posters ultimately assisted police in getting the 33-year-old back into custody.

Many of Annen’s loved ones wore matching t-shirts at Friday’s sentencing, and provided powerful victim impact statements in the courtroom.

In one emotional outburst, Annen’s son had to be escorted out by deputies after he threatened to kill the defendant by choking him to death.

"It seems like he's had the criminal history. He's just been getting slapped on the wrist every time," he said. "He hasn't had time to be a way to think about what he's done, so hopefully that he can be away and think about now and make some changes."

"I just hope that me and my brother and sister, we can move forward from this," concluded Ziolkowski, still openly grieving the loss of her mom. "You know, it's been 680 days. That's too many days, too long."

Just before that sentence was imposed, Her-Xiong had the opportunity to address the court. He turned and apologized to the family, asked for forgiveness, and promised to change.

Her-Xiong is facing additional criminal charges that could potentially add even more to his time behind bars.

In total, Ramsey County District Judge Joy Bartscher handed down the statutory maximum of 10 years for the death of Annen. The judge tacked added another 14 months for the passenger Her-Xiong injured in the crash. Those sentences will be served consecutively in the Minnesota Department of Corrections system. 

In the end, by failing to show up for his original sentencing and take a plea deal negotiated with Ramsey County prosecutors, Her-Xiong lost his negotiated plea deal and had almost two full years added on to his sentence. 

He is facing additional criminal charges that could also add to his overall time in prison. Currently, online records show an anticipated release date of February 2030.