MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The woman who hit and killed a Wayzata police officer last September will spend more than eight years behind bars.
Beth Freeman pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 98 months in prison by a judge.
She was found to have trace amounts of cocaine in her system when she hit Officer Bill Mathews last September in Wayzata. Matthews was picking up debris on Highway 12 when it happened.
“She is someone who must live with her actions the rest of her life,” said Freeman’s attorney, Andrea Ryan Anderson.
In a packed courtroom, members of the Wayzata Police Department watched the proceedings from a jury box. The media was not allowed to record emotional victim impacts statements from Officer Mathews’ wife, Shawn, and son, Wyatt. Wyatt told the court he was mad that he will never be able to play with his dad again.
“I hold myself accountable for this accident,” Freeman told the court.
The judge allowed Beth Freeman to wear civilian clothes in court. Just before she was sentenced, she addressed Mathews’ family.
“I’m extremely sorry for Officer Mathews’ death and ask for your forgiveness and pray that you will make God your refuge in times of trouble,” said Freeman.
Freeman was sentenced to more than eight years. About 5 1/2 will be spent in prison, the rest on supervised release. Despite the guilty plea, Freeman’s attorney disputed claims that she was using her cell phone during the crash and maintains that any reasonable person would not have been able to stop in time.
“That’s my argument, yes. That a reasonable person in her position couldn’t have stopped,” said Anderson.
But Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman saw it differently.
“Other people saw him and moved aside, but Beth Freeman didn’t,” said Freeman. “Clearly the way she drove was negligent.”
“As a police officer, do I think her actions were preventable? Absolutely,” said Sgt. Brian Hubbard.
Sgt. Hubbard, a friend of Officer Mathews, said he believes Freeman’s apology was sincere but it doesn’t change what happened.
“I’ve gotten to give Wyatt a high five and give him a hug and hang out with him and I see my own kids in that and I don’t want them to be in that situation,” said Hubbard.
Officer Mathews family and members of the Wayzata Police Department are traveling to Washington, D.C., where his name will be added to the National Peace Officer’s Memorial alongside more than 100 other officers killed in the line of duty last year.
In early May, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill into law that designates a section of U.S. Highway 12 — within Wayzata city limits — as “Officer Bill Mathews Memorial Highway.”
Freeman will be eligible for parole in five-and-a-half years.