Brigan sentenced for deaths of two county workers
Vanessa Rae Brigan, 28, of Carlton was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday, April 14, on two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. She has credit for 561 days served.
Brigan will have to also pay fines and fees in the amount of $210 but a restitution amount was not set, pending more information, due within 30 days.
Judge Dale O. Harris heard statements and spoken words from the families of Zach Gamache and Mitchell Lindgren, the two county workers who died as a result of a vehicle accident caused by Brigan. The two men were employees of Carlton County and were traveling on Highway 210 west of Cromwell when Brigan's car went out of control and caused the crash on October 1, 2012.
Syringes with small amounts of methadone were found in Brigan's car, along with used needles and a nearly empty bottle of methadone. Fresh needle marks were found on Brigan's arm. More used syringes and needles were found in the ditch near Brigan's car.
Brigan pled guilty to the two counts and was convicted of felonies.
The families of the two men appeared in court and told Brigan and those in attendance the impact the death of the men has had on their lives. For others, statements were read. Weeping could be heard as the words were spoken.
"We lost our son on October 1, 2012, and our lives were forever changed," stated Gamache's parents in a statement read by Jill Peterson. "Zach was the fifth of six sons. Each was unique in his own way. Zach was very responsible. He was a member of the Esko Fire Department, and that underscored his sense of responsibility. He was also cheerful and had a constant smile on his face. He enjoyed every minute of his life. There is so much hurt and grief in the loss of our son. We think about what-ifs if it had never happened. Attempting to describe our loss and how it has affected our lives is like trying to describe every snowflake."
A statement from Jason, Gamache's brother, described the closeness between the two, and how his death has impacted his life.
Bridget Suzanne Park, fiancée of Gamache, said they had been dating for three years. She explained she is a deputy for the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, and had been unable to respond to the crash site that day because of another case.
She said Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake and other officers broke the news to her and supported her in her grief. She described having to bring the news to Gamache's parents, and how difficult that was for all of them.
"I had to do the unspeakable, tell a mother that her son had died," she said.
Park spoke about their plans to marry at Target Field, and how she planned to wear a Twins jersey with her name on the back to the ceremony, and wear a jersey with the Gamache name on the back from the ceremony.
The couple had planned to buy a home in Carlton.
"He truly was my soul mate and the love of my life," said Park. "He would text me 10 times a day and tell me that he loved me. He also loved my sons, Eric and Ben."
She said she has had to have counseling, and that she harbored hatred toward Brigan until she realized how those feelings were hurting her. She put her out of her mind, she said.
"I forgive you, Vanessa Brigan," she concluded.
Angie Lindgren, wife of Mitchell Lindgren, spoke in a voice shaky with emotion as she told of the impact that the death of her husband has had on her and the lives of their children and family. Her parents were by her side, supporting her as she made her statement.
"We are completely broken and lost," she said. "My husband was the whole world to us. He protected me and supported me. Mitch loved his babies so much. Mitch coached Jordan's hockey team. He still would be doing it to this day if he were still living. There are days that we cry together because we miss Mitch so badly. Lilly was only 3 when her daddy was killed. Our baby girl will never cuddle with her daddy anymore. He will never walk her down the aisle. He was stolen from us."
A statement was read from Mitch Lindgren's father.
"I wondered how I was going to tell the others after I was given the news," he said. "No one can take the place of Mitch. Last winter at a hockey game Jordan asked who was going to be there for him now. Every time I see a county deputy or a yellow vested highway worker I think of Mitch."
A statement from Kathy Lindgren, Mitch Lindgren's mother, described how she had given birth to four children, and has had to bury two of them. One died of a brain tumor.
"His death should never have happened," she stated. "His children are growing up without his guidance and love. Angie is struggling with being a single parent as well as loss and grief. My new normal is living with the pain of loss. I miss those blue eyes and that big smile, and making plans for the future."
A statement from Mitch Lindgren's brother, Alex, was read. He described the closeness he had with his brother over the years, even after he was living in Italy.
"The day before he died, I was going to call and talk to him about the Vikings/Lions game but I didn't," he stated. "I lost my friend. On October 1, 2012, a caring, smart, amazing man was taken out of our lives."
Mitch Lindgren's sister told how hard it was to put into words how his loss has affected the family.
"Mitch died five weeks before my wedding," she said. "It was supposed to be the happiest day of my life. He left a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. He will always be remembered."
Brigan spoke, and said, "I want everyone to know that I am truly and deeply sorry. I am not a bad person, I just made mistakes. Not a day goes by when I don't think about them. I am truly, deeply sorry."
Brigan could serve 48 months in prison and then be out on supervised release, said Judge Harris.
"A prison term isn't a good fix for what happened here," he added. "There is no magic for you, and there is no magic for these families," he told Brigan.
"I am very sorry for your loss as well as the loss to the community," he told the families.