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Beaulieu goes to prison: Victim's widow talks about life without him

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Laurine Marie Beaulieu had her day in court Monday, as did the family of the victim of her crime.

Judge Robert Tiffany weighed in as well after sentencing Beaulieu to 71 months in prison.

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In March, Beaulieu, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular homicide-leaving the scene. Monday she appeared for sentencing in the death of Paul P. Howard, 52, Rochester, who died in a car-bicycle accident July 24 on state Highway 71 near Itasca State Park.

Howard's widow, Julianne, her brother and his parents were in the courtroom.

Julianne Howard read a victim impact statement. During their 26 years of marriage, she said, her husband always lent a helping hand to anyone in need. He also enjoyed riding bicycle.

As an engineer in the computer data storage industry, he worked with people in the western United States and in Singapore and Thailand.

Their children were 17, 20 and 23 years old when their father died. The oldest is pursuing his PhD. Their daughter is in college, spending the semester in India. Her father was going to visit her there this year.

The youngest will graduate from high school next month.

The children will have graduations without their father and someday will have children who will never know their grandfather, she said.

Once their youngest graduated, she said, they were looking forward to doing more things together as a couple. Although she said she is grateful for support from her children, family and friends, she has many years of being alone.

She has had to find medical insurance on her own and make many decisions alone, Julianne said.

The Howards were vacationing near Park Rapids last July. She said her husband went out for one last bicycle ride July 24 before they headed home.

"He had a right to be on that road," Julianne said, indicating Beaulieu struck her husband while driving her van and "left him to die alone in a ditch." Beaulieu had not had a valid drivers license for years, she said.

"Two families' lives were ruined through a senseless act," added county attorney Don Dearstyne. He said Beaulieu has a small child who will be spending time without her mother. The victim's parents had to bury their child, which is something no one should have to do, he said.

"It was a tragic event...in the state's mind she must have known she hit a person," Dearstyne continued. While sentencing provides some closure to the family, even 20 years is not enough for taking a life, he said.

Dearstyne asked the court to impose the 71-month sentence agreed to earlier and to add the time to sentences not yet executed on convictions in other counties.

"Hopefully, the defendant will learn from her mistakes," Dearstyne said.

Public defender Paul Sellers asked the court to allow Katy Grisamore to speak on Beaulieu's behalf. Grisamore and her husband serve in the Hubbard County jail ministry. She told the court Beaulieu has been coming to Bible study three times a week, is "filled with terrible remorse and grief" and has been praying for her family and for the Howard family as well.

Then Beaulieu spoke, presenting the Howard family with a card she made.

"I know I have did wrong," she said, asking for forgiveness. Beaulieu said the image of what happened plays over and over in her mind and she is haunted by deep sadness and regret.

Beaulieu said she wishes she could turn back the clock, but knows that's not possible. "It's like a flowing river where the water cannot be turned around or stopped," she said of the chain of events.

Beaulieu said if she could take any amount of the family's pain, she would do so. "I ask for forgiveness and peace," she said.

She also wrote a letter to the judge, expressing her remorse and asking to go to treatment.

"This is a tragedy on many, many levels." Tiffany said. "The Howard family has been shattered... Ms. Beaulieu, you set off on a new course that day that has had a dramatic effect on you, your husband, your son and daughter."

Tiffany also said Beaulieu's "thoughtless, inconsiderate actions" have had a widespread impact on the community.

"Society failed Mr. Howard...too many people are using vehicles as weapons," Tiffany said. Society also failed the defendant, he said. "Despite chronic (alcohol) abuse, you have never gone through treatment, and there's no good excuse for that."

Tiffany continued, saying he hopes the Howard family can work toward closure, that "your struggles develop your strength" and that he has gathered an appreciation for Mr. Howard as an exceptional person.

He encouraged Beaulieu to go forward, "meet your demons head on" and redirect her life to positive things.

Finally, he said, when he spoke of the incident being a tragedy on many levels, he meant "our community suffers," too.

This incident, he said, "underlines the struggles we have with chemical dependency issues."

Tiffany sentenced Beaulieu to a maximum of 71 months with the Department of Corrections. The minimum would be 47 and one-third months with 23 and two-thirds months on supervised release. He agreed with Dearstyne's request to require any other sentences to be added to the time.

Beaulieu has already served 280 days.

Restitution for funeral expenses will be determined at a future date.

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