Two sisters of a man killed in an April 2013 crash in Apple Valley said Wednesday they forgave the woman who drove his group home van through a red light while distracted by her cellphone.
Amanda Leann Schlachter, 30, of Apple Valley, received a 90-day jail sentence in Dakota County District Court on Wednesday. Schlachter pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation in January, admitting to being distracted as she crashed into two vehicles just a few blocks north of the group home where she worked.
James F. Sundboom, 66, one of the van’s passengers, died after 16 days on life support following the crash, Kathleen Clough said in court Wednesday. Clough described the look on her brother’s face when doctors tried to remove an oxygen tube and the fear he displayed at the sight of the room’s bright lights and beeping sounds.
Another sister, Barbara Bichel, steadied herself before talking about the anger she felt after her brother’s death. She said her brother was like most people in that he, too, would also get angry sometimes.
“But he wouldn’t stay mad. Speaking for Jim, we forgive her because Jim would’ve wanted it that way and I do also,” Bichel said.
According to charges, Schlachter drove the van’s passengers back from a shopping and lunch outing at Ikea. She ran a red light at McAndrews Road while entering a number on her phone and hit an SUV that struck a third vehicle. Emergency crews had to cut off the van’s roof to remove Schlachter and her passengers. Three other passengers were also hurt.
Schlachter’s attorney, Bill Sherry, read a written statement she had prepared. Sherry said Schlachter didn’t have the stomach to fight the charges at a trial and felt she could not stand before the court and speak.
“Words fail to describe how deeply sorry I am,” Sherry read as Schlachter sat quietly, wiping away tears.
In addition to the jail time, Schlachter will be on probation for 10 years. Dakota County District Judge Tim Wermager also ordered Schlachter to write letters of apology to those affected by the crash.
Stephen Montemayor • 952-746-3282