Man sentenced to prison in death of Dickinson motel owner
Friends and family of Dickinson business owner Tracy Freer, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident more than a year ago, had their chance to address the court, and, by extension, so did the man driving the vehicle that struck and killed Freer.
At a change-of-plea hearing and sentencing Tuesday at the Stark County Courthouse, Timothy Menges pleaded guilty per an agreement worked out between his attorney, Ryan Heintz, and Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning.
Menges is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death or personal injury, a Class B felony he was charged with in July. As part of the plea deal, a Class C felony charge for negligent homicide first charged in March was dropped.
Judge Dann Greenwood sentenced Menges to the fullest extent of the deal, five years’ imprisonment, with two years suspended and credit for time served. Upon release, he will have to be in the 24/7 drug and alcohol monitoring program for an additional year. Menges has been residing at the Southwest Multi-County Correctional Center since his arrest in March.
“While there’s clear evidence that the death occurred and that Mr. Menges is responsible for causing it, there’s very little, if any, evidence that demonstrates what was his intent,” Greenwood said. “I think that the conduct of the defendant — leaving in a hurry under those circumstances — demonstrates a certain degree of recklessness that has to be considered by the court.
“I can’t ignore the possibility that Mr. Menges clearly knew that this situation had occurred and did not take any steps to determine whether or not it was a dog or a person. I don’t believe the low end of what has been recommended here is appropriate.”
Before Greenwood delivered Menges’ sentence, he allowed Freer’s family — who has been present at nearly every hearing and public court proceeding since March — to address the court. Family members also submitted written statements.
“This has affected our family in every way you could probably imagine,” said Roberta Freer, Tracy Freer’s widow.
She said she has a grandson who still wonders where his “Papa” is.
Since her husband’s death, she has had to run a business by herself, Roberta Freer said.
She was unhappy with the way the state prosecuted the case, and let Henning, Greenwood and all present know.
Roberta Freer had a hard time not directly addressing Menges, as did other family members. John Stevens, Tracy Freer’s stepbrother, pulled out a photograph of Tracy Freer in his casket and displayed it to Menges before Heintz objected.
“We can’t even celebrate Thanksgiving because of this,” Stevens said. “Every time Turkey Day comes around, we have to remember this tragedy.”
The length of Menges’ sentence did not sit well with Stevens.
“A few years ago, I wrote bad checks and I got more time than he’s looking at right now,” Stevens said. “That is not right, it is not justice, it is not fair. I did not kill nobody, I wrote some bad checks and I did three years for those bad checks. But I did my time and now I’m a citizen again.”
While Menges was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident, Tracy Freer’s cousin, Debbie Dannenfelzer, reminded the court that several laws were broken by Menges the evening her cousin was killed.
“I feel that the defendant, had he followed the law to begin with that night, he would never had been behind the wheel of a vehicle. He had no right,” Dannenfelzer said. “He had no driver’s license, he had no insurance and he was alcohol impaired. None of this would have had to happen had he obeyed the law himself. He initiated this entire nightmare by breaking the law.”
Menges waived his right to address the court.
At about 1 a.m. Nov. 21, 2012, the day before Thanksgiving, Roberta Freer called the Dickinson Police Department to report that her husband had been apparently struck by a vehicle. Tracy Freer was taken by ambulance to a Bismarck hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Menges told Dickinson Police investigators at the time of his arrest that he had been drinking across the street at the Paragon on Nov. 20 — having four to five whiskey colas and four to five beers — and drove through the Queen City Motel, which was owned by the Freers, to check on a friend who was staying there at the time.
Menges encountered Tracy Freer, who was outside taking care of his dog, in the parking lot. Menges stopped to speak to Tracy Freer, who was upset that Menges had nearly ran over the dog, Dickinson Police Detective Travis Leintz told the court in April.
In an effort to avoid further confrontation, Menges decided to leave, Henning recapped in court Tuesday. When he was attempting to make a left turn and head east on Villard Street, Menges said he felt a bump as he left, thinking it was a pothole or, at worst, the Freers’ dog.
Henning said Menges heard about Tracy Freer’s death a few days later, eventually making the connection that it was he who struck and killed him.
At the time of the incident, Menges’ license was suspended.
Menges confessed to a friend that he was the one behind the wheel the night Tracy Freer died. That friend brought that information to the Dickinson Police Department, which arrested Menges on March 4.
Menges was charged with negligent homicide, a Class C felony, on March 5 and with leaving the scene of an accident where a death or personal injury occurred, a Class B felony, on July 11.
The maximum penalty for a Class B felony is 10 years’ imprisonment, a $20,000 fine, or both and the maximum penalty for a Class C felony is 5 years’ imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both.