by Max Brantley
The award against the State Police will be considered for appropriation by the legislature. Norman Hodges, director of the Claims Commission, said a panel of Pat Moran, Richard Mays and H.T. Moore voted unanimously for the award after perhaps five hours of testimony on Thursday. Hodges said he understood the panel assigned about 10 percent of the fault for the accident on Freemyer, but most of the rest to Rhew, who's no longer a member of the State Police.
Freemyer, a Blytheville teacher, pulled out of a restaurant onto a highway through Manila and was hit by Rhew, who was heading to a call in Osceola. Rhew was fired for ignoring operating rules in the wreck, but reinstated by the State Police Commission. Rhew's attorney argued that Freemyer was at fault. Rhew later resigned as a trooper after an arrest for DWI in Missouri. He says that charge was subsequently dismissed.
The claim was brought by Melissa Stewart, one of Freemyer's daughters, as administrator of her estate. Hodges said he believed it was the second-largest personal injury award made by the Claims Commission. He said $6.5 million was awarded several years ago in the case of a child who'd been severely injured by a flying piece of metal from a highway right of way mower.
Bobby Coleman of Blytheville was attorney for the estate. The family earlier had objected to a plea bargain in a criminal case brought against Rhew in which he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor negligent manslaughter charge with the opportunity to have his record expunged.