The parents, brothers, and friends of Justin Callahan, 35, told San Diego Superior Court Judge Runston Maino about his life, with one telling the driver he would have forgiven her.
Lauren Ashley Freeman, 24, cried, telling the audience “I would do anything to bring Justin back.”
Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans said Freeman’s blood-alcohol level was approximately .28 — over three times the legal limit. “She was driving the wrong way for almost two miles,” said Evans.
Freeman struck Callahan’s Toyota Camry at 1:55 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2018 on a transition ramp between Interstate 8 and I-5 in Ocean Beach. His family said he clocked out at 1:30 a.m. at a Chula Vista business and was almost home.
Initially, the California Highway Patrol found Callahan at fault by saying he drove the wrong way, but investigators later determined it was Freeman who was responsible.
Evans said Freeman was drinking heavily in an Ocean Beach bar. Her phone contained a selfie of herself there. Evans said she disregarded four signs on the onramp that showed she was driving the wrong way.
She pleaded guilty July 26 to gross vehicular manslaughter and drunk driving with injury to her passenger who had a broken foot and clavicle. A second-degree murder charge was dismissed.
Lowell Callahan, the victim’s father, told the judge that Scriptures and the Book of Mormon “help us get through when things are tough.
“I forgive what she did, but I’m not the final judge,” said Lowell Callahan. “I’m not happy with the plea bargain as I think she should have more time.”
Timothy Martin, one of the victim’s brothers, told Freeman he didn’t hate her and added: “I hope you learn to forgive yourself.”
“There’s no excuse for getting into a car intoxicated,” said another brother, Tommy Villafranca. “One day I can find forgiveness for (her).”
“When he was killed, part of me left,” said his mother, America Callahan. “Justin would always make me laugh. I miss him so much.”
Alaina Nims-Pomarede, who described herself as a friend of the victim after she met him at San Diego State University, said he was “one of those rare people you meet in life.”
Addressing Freeman, Nims-Pomarede said this: “You will learn from this tragedy and never drink and drive again… He was very kind. I know he would have forgiven you.”
“He was one of those rare people whom you know would be in your life forever,” said Chrystal Ferman, who said she met him in junior high.
“I accepted the consequences of my actions,” said Freeman. “My true sentence is to live with this the rest of my life. None of these words will bring Justin back.”
Her father, Thomas Freeman, expressed his condolences to the family and friends. “I hope there is some way you’ll find peace,” he said.
“She’s accepted responsibility for her crime and she’ll serve her time,” said Thomas Freeman.
Her attorney, Philip Shapiro, encouraged the group to “keep his memory alive by doing good acts.”
Maino described the 11 years, eight months as “a reasonable sentence.” He ordered Freeman to pay $3,600 in restitution and gave her credit for 379 days in jail she has served.
Afterward, the victim’s family members talked with family members and friends of Freeman in the hallway.