Family describes agony in loss
Matthew Hartley, a Farmington man with an extensive criminal history, will serve 10 years in prison for the hit-and-run death of decorated Army Spc. Mollie Mah
owald, 24, in Elko New Market Sept. 25, 2016.
At the sentencing May 10, Mollie’s friends and family members read victim impact statements describing the depth of their grief and loss.
Julia Mahowald, Mollie’s younger sister who was at the Lakeville woman’s side when she died, told of Mollie’s love for animals, her plans for the future and the painful day of her death.
“The hardest thing I had to do was call my mom and tell her that her own daughter was dying,” Julia said.
Eleven months separated Mollie and sister Hannah Mahowald, who called Mollie her best friend.
Hannah said Mollie loved animals, wanted to be a veterinarian technician and had recently met a boy she liked.
They dreamed of weddings, careers and the families they would have one day.
Mollie was not here to share the news of Hannah’s engagement or dance on her wedding day, April 1.
“One of my hardest days was when I found I was pregnant,” Hannah said. “All I wanted to do was call my little sister and tell her the good news.”
Mollie’s father, Pete Mahowald, detailed the grief of Mollie’s standing-room-only funeral, the fully dressed military members that lined the church walls and the Minnesota Patriot Guard and State Patrol outside. He recalled the eagle that landed on the church steeple cross and described what it was like as the family stood around her casket for the last time.
“We took a brief moment with Mollie, placed a few items with her that we wanted her to take along, murmured a few words and gave her the last kiss of a lifetime,” he said. “Moments after that, the casket was closed. We knew we would never see her again. I remember that feeling well – my heart felt like it was on the floor. My daughter had been taken away from us. Forever.”
Mollie’s mother, Peggy Mahowald, said every day she thinks of her middle daughter and wishes she could talk to her.
She shared grief over all the important family events she is missing and requested a strict sentence.
“I believe Mr. Hartley needs to spend many years in prison for this crime,” Peggy said. “I know it’s not the first time he’s committed a felony, and it’s time he be held accountable for his actions.”
Scott County Judge Christian Wilton gave Hartley the maximum sentence allowed under Minnesota’s guidelines.
“Time and time again, you’ve shown no regard for the rules, the law, for authority or for any other human being,” Wilton said according to news recordings of the hearing.
He also reviewed some of Hartley’s criminal history, including his extensive juvenile record that included stealing from his family so frequently they put valuables in a vault, according to Pete.
“We’re pretty pleased,” Pete said in an interview. “The judge gave him everything he was allowed to.”
He also expressed frustration that his criminal history was not allowed to be introduced as evidence during his trial.
People convicted in Minnesota serve two-thirds of the time they are sentenced, assuming good behavior, and the eight months Hartley has spent in jail held since being arrested will count toward his sentence.
A jury convicted Hartley in February of three felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide after hitting Mahowald on his motorcycle and leaving the scene.
During the trial, witnesses testified Hartley was traveling on the wrong side of the road, racing another motorcycle driver while Mahowald and friends were standing on the shoulder of the street.
He struck her, picked up his motorcycle and left the scene as bystanders yelled for him to stop; it would be about 13 hours before police tracked him down and arrested him.
Life-saving measures were unsuccessful and Mahowald died on the scene, where she was with friends and sister Julie.
Court records show Hartley has been charged over 50 previous times with convictions or guilty pleas on offenses that include domestic abuse, violating probation and no-contact orders, burglary, DWI, marijuana possession, fleeing from a police officer, driving after suspension, check forgery, burglary, terroristic threats, obscene or harassing phone calls, financial transaction fraud, theft and tampering with a motor vehicle.