Repeat drunken driver who once killed Duluth woman, grandson will serve annual jail time

A judge declined to send Hawk Edwards back to prison for his latest DWI conviction, but said he must return to jail once a year to mark the anniversary of the crash that killed Paula and Everett Bergren.

wood gavel with American flag in background
Getty Images
Getty Images

Judge Theresa Neo said she lost sleep in recent weeks over the sentencing decision she faced Monday.

On one hand, she could make the "easy" choice to send Hawk Patrick Edwards back to prison. The 28-year-old had served time before for a drunken crash that killed two people, and he faced a presumptive return for his latest DWI . Another prison sentence would satisfy the victims' family and keep the roads a little safer for a few years, the judge reckoned.

On the other hand, Neo said it was clear that even the tragic deaths of a woman and her grandson were not enough to keep the defendant from reverting back to his past behavior. Edwards is an addict, she said, who needs treatment and supervision, and there's little reason to believe that more incarceration would do the trick.

"I do not believe more prison will change you," Neo said. "I know that there are a lot of really damaged, hurt people in prison, and spending three more years with them is not going to make you any better; it's not going to help you make the world a better place."

Neo scrupulously outlined her decision-making process as she imposed a sentence that she said was unlike any she has ordered in her six years on the bench. She granted Edwards' request to depart from guidelines and placed him on five years of supervised probation with a number of strict conditions.


Hawk Patrick Edwards.jpg
Hawk Patrick Edwards

PREVIOUSLY: Driver who killed Duluth woman, grandson pleads guilty to new DWI charge The man who caused a 2012 Woodland Avenue crash that led to the deaths of Paula and Everett Bergren faces a presumptive return to prison.
The judge ordered Edwards to surrender to the St. Louis County Jail immediately after Monday's hearing and remain there until Jan. 20. He will spend two additional weeks in jail every January through 2024, coinciding with the anniversary of the 2012 crash that killed Paula and Everett Bergren.

"For two weeks out of your life every year, you're going to be inconvenienced," Neo told Edwards. "And that's my intention, so that it will help you remember why you're out, why you need to work that plan, why you need to get this addiction and mental health stuff. … You're still young; you still can be a contributing member of this community."

Neo announced the decision after about 30 minutes of private deliberation after hearing arguments and testimony from Edwards, his attorney, two treatment professionals, a prosecutor and family members of his 2012 victims at the remote hearing of State District Court in Duluth.

Edward Bergren, the son and father of the two victims killed in the previous incident, called the decision "a further stab in the face by the court system."

"The family is completely upset," he told the News Tribune after the hearing. "We're shocked to see that a person gets off with so light of a sentence compared to the lifelong sentence of trauma and pain that we have."

Edwards, of Superior, was arrested Jan. 5 after a Duluth police officer saw his vehicle enter Interstate 35 from the Blatnik Bridge at a high rate of speed. Officers said he exhibited signs of impairment and admitted to consuming several alcoholic beverages. A preliminary breath test put his blood-alcohol concentration at 0.149, nearly twice the legal limit.


Edwards pleaded guilty in August to first-degree driving while impaired. It was considered a felony because of his prior convictions for criminal vehicular homicide and operation.

Paula Bergren
Paula Bergren

Edwards, then 19, had a 0.11 blood-alcohol level on Jan. 19, 2012, when his pickup truck crossed the center line of Woodland Avenue, striking an oncoming car. Paula Bergren, 65, was killed almost instantly; Everett, 13, made a gradual recovery before dying of complications related to his injuries in January 2013 .

PREVIOUSLY: Driver who killed Duluth woman, grandson pleads guilty to new DWI charge The man who caused a 2012 Woodland Avenue crash that led to the deaths of Paula and Everett Bergren faces a presumptive return to prison.
Edwards' latest arrest came on the seventh anniversary of Everett's death. The boy's mother, Trista Turnbull, called Edwards a threat to public safety and asked the judge to send a strong message to the community, calling the latest incident "a huge reopening to old wounds" and "a slap in the face of the loved ones we have lost due to his reckless behavior."

"After putting a family through so much pain and taking two lives, we don't want any other family to have to experience this," Turnbull wrote in a letter that was read aloud.

Everett Bergren.jpg
Everett Bergren works with an occupational therapist at Essentia Health in Duluth in March 2012. After being critically injured by a drunken driver in January 2012, the 13-year-old made significant progress before dying from complications related to a surgery nearly a year later. (File/News Tribune)


St. Louis County prosecutor Michael Hagley concurred, noting Edwards had only been released on parole in May 2017 and fully discharged from supervision in September 2018.

"The state does not doubt that Mr. Edwards feels remorse," he said. "What the state doubts is that that remorse will be sufficient to change this pattern of behavior."

But defense attorney Bill Thompson argued for probation. He cited a long history of addiction — Edwards started using alcohol and marijuana at 10 and progressed to heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine by 14 — and submitted evidence of his client's recent progress in chemical dependency and mental health treatment.

"The public as a whole has every right to be angry in this particular matter," Thompson said. "Mr. Edwards made another mistake. And it's easy to want to let the anger win the day. But there are other options than simply sending Mr. Edwards to prison for another four years. That doesn't really solve our problem."

Edwards apologized to the court and, specifically, to the Bergren family, and asked that he be given the chance to continue with his counseling.

Pending formal approval, it's anticipated that Edwards may be admitted into the South St. Louis County DWI Court program, which includes regular court appearances and strict supervision.

Neo imposed a number of other conditions, requiring an ignition interlock on Edwards' vehicle and prohibiting him from visiting any establishment or residence with alcohol. A violation of any terms could result in a 57-month prison sentence.

"I want to keep the public safe," the judge said. "I want to support you by providing a safety net. And I want to make sure I don't regret this decision."


Likewise, Edward Bergren said he considers the judge to be responsible for what happens over the next several years.

"If he kills or hurts any more people, that's on her," he said. "She could've taken him out of driving for the next four years. This decision has imperiled the community."

This story was updated at 1:35 p.m. Dec. 22 with comments from Edward Bergren. It was originally posted at 5:54 p.m. Dec. 21.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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