A teenage driver who killed a Becker, Minn., man and his 10-year-old daughter last summer after running a red light while texting was sentenced Friday to four years’ probation and 240 hours of community service.
Carlee R. Bollig, 17, of Little Falls, Minn., could spend more than five years in prison, however, if she violates terms of her probation, a judge ruled.
“We live in a society built on trust,” District Judge Thomas D. Hayes said in addressing Bollig during an emotional 90-minute hearing in Sherburne County District Court in Elk River. “We surrender our well-being and lives to other people’s judgment …
“You committed a profound breach of trust. Innocent people traveling the public’s highway were entitled to believe you would obey the rules of the road. Your betrayal of that trust has had a most unimaginable impact.”
Bollig did not speak at the hearing. Instead, she spent most of the time hunched over in her chair and dabbing her eyes with tissues as relatives of her victims spoke of their loss. Afterward, she was taken into custody. Under terms of her sentence, she will be taken to a treatment center to undergo psychological and substance-abuse assessments.
Bollig’s attorney, Tom Richards, apologized in court for her “extremely negligent” act.
“Words cannot bring back the loss of this family; my client understands that,” he said, fighting back tears. “Carlee is remorseful.”
Richards said that Bollig had grown up facing hardship. After the hearing, he told reporters, “She’s not a monster, she’s a kid.”
Bollig pleaded guilty in February to two counts of criminal-vehicular homicide in the July 21 crash, which fatally injured Charles P. Maurer, 54, and his daughter, Cassy, 10.
The crash occurred about 8 p.m. at the intersection of Hwy. 10 and County Road 11, between Becker and Big Lake. One of Bollig’s passengers had pleaded with her on at least “eight or nine occasions” to stop texting, according to court records.
Bollig “refused to comply,” and at one point — the records say — said she “didn’t care if she crashed,” and eventually cursed at her friend.
Just as the pickup was about to enter the intersection, Bollig’s friend Caysi J. Jaronske said someone yelled, “Red light, red light!,” according to the charging petition.
Bollig never applied the brakes, investigators determined, and the pickup continued east on Hwy. 10, where it T-boned the van on the driver’s side as it traveled north on County Road 11.
Analysis of Bollig’s cellphone found that she sent and received “multiple electronic messages” on Facebook for eight minutes leading up to the crash, the complaint read.
Charles Maurer died the night of the crash. Cassy, who would have been a fifth-grader at Becker School, died 10 days later.
Cassy’s sister, Alenita Maurer, 16, and her friend Alora Nelson, who were riding in the van, also were injured.
Bollig and three others in her pickup, all friends from Little Falls, were injured. Bollig, who is recovering from injuries suffered in the crash, entered the courtroom Friday with the help of crutches.
Behind her sat more than 30 people, a dozen of whom detailed the pain of their suffering and loss by reading victim impact statements.
‘Changed my life’
One was Alenita Maurer, who said the crash “has completely changed my life. It’s not just the road I’m scared of; sometimes I feel unsafe at home.”
Alora Nelson teared up describing how a concussion from the crash has affected her short-term memory, causing her to fall behind in school. She also spoke to the emotional trauma of the crash.
“I am nowhere near the same person,” Nelson said. “She has made me afraid to love my family and friends, because all I can think about is that they can die at any moment. It seems as if I am afraid of everything these days.”
Bollig, who was charged as a juvenile, won’t have to serve prison time as long as she follows terms of her probation.
But in sentencing her, Hayes said that had she been a year older, “based on what I’ve seen, your next step would have been Shakopee, a women’s prison,” referring to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Shakopee.
The terms of Bollig’s probation prohibit her from operating a motor vehicle until she’s 21, and only then if she is properly trained; she must successfully complete a treatment program; she cannot possess firearms or take mood-altering chemicals, and she must comply with chemical testing.
Bollig also must perform 240 hours of community service, and develop a curriculum for nearly or recently licensed drivers. Her community service will include delivering public presentations at schools about texting and driving.
“She can’t bring Chuck and Cassy back, but she might be able to keep others from making the same mistake,” said Diane Maurer, Charles’ sister.
Should Bollig violate any of the terms, she’d face up to 69 months in prison.
That was little comfort to the Maurer family Friday.
Another Maurer sister wrote in her victim impact statement: “There’s not enough time or paper to tell you how much pain Carlee has caused our family.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Zoë Peterson is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.