Woman sentenced for killing a man while driving intoxicated

Courtesy image.

A Santee woman was sentenced Sept. 27 to 11 years and eight months in prison for killing a man while she was driving while intoxicated.

Lauren Ashley Freeman, 24, wiped away tears during her sentencing involving the death of Justin Callahan, 35, before San Diego Superior Court Judge Runston Maino.

“I would do anything to bring Justin back,” said Freeman tearfully, who was sitting with her attorneys at a table and was dressed in blue jail clothes.

She pleaded guilty July 26 to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death Feb. 26, 2018, of Callahan, who was driving home at 1:55 a.m. after getting off work.

She also pleaded guilty to DUI with injury to her passenger, Renee Taddeo, of El Cajon, who suffered a broken foot, clavicle and other injuries.

“She was driving the wrong way for almost two miles,” said Deputy District Attorney Laura Evans, who said her blood/alcohol level was .28, which is over three times the legal limit.

Evans said Freeman took a course about serving alcoholic drinks while working as a server at the Viejas Casino in Alpine and her boyfriend was later charged with DUI.

Freeman ran into Callahan by driving the wrong way on a ramp between Interstate 8 and I-5. Callahan was headed to his Ocean Beach home. Evans said she passed four signs showing she was driving the wrong way.

The California Highway Patrol initially thought Callahan was at fault, but they reversed their earlier finding and Freeman was charged in November 2018.

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 behind bars.”

Timothy Martin, one of Callahan’s brothers, told Freeman he didn’t hate her and added “I hope you learn to forgive myself.”

“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.”

A friend of Callahan, Alaina 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.”

Freeman said, “I will forever be haunted by the choices of that night. I (can’t) put into words how sorry I am. None of these words will bring Justin back.”

“I accepted the consequences of my action. My true sentence is to live with this for the rest of my life,” said Freeman. “I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me one day, and know how truly and deeply sorry that I am.”

Her father, Thomas Freeman, wept as he expressed condolences to Callahan’s family.

He said he hoped “some way you’ll find peace.”

“She’s accepted responsibility for her crime and she’ll serve her time,” said Thomas Freeman, who added that the charges “don’t define her.”

Her attorney, Philip Shapiro, suggested to the victim’s family that they “keep his memory alive by good acts.”

Freeman received 10 years for the death and Maino added one year and eight months for the DUI conviction that also injured Freeman’s passenger.

She had also been charged with second-degree murder, but that was dropped when she pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter.

She was ordered to pay $3,600 in restitution and received credit for 379 days in jail.