Repeat car thief sentenced for crash that killed St. Paul woman

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Alison Annen snapshot
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Jennifer Cook said her mother Alison Annen was a “beautiful soul” who lived life to the fullest. At 60 years old, she was in good health and enjoyed doing many of her favorite things: going to the casino, listening to “oldies” and country music, sewing, fishing and riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Alison Annen (Courtesy of the family)

“Above all, she loved her kids and grandkids more than life itself,” Cook recalled Friday in a Ramsey County courtroom.

But her mother’s life, her future with her family were “ripped away” on Jan. 7, Cook told the court, when Xia Her-Xiong “made the choice” to speed away from a St. Paul police officer in a stolen car and blow through an intersection, where he crashed into Annen’s car, killing her.

Waiting for Her-Xiong’s Friday sentencing has been “complete agony,” Cook said. “Your honor, it finally becomes his day to suffer,” she told Judge Joy Bartscher.

Bartscher went on to accept Her-Xiong’s previous guilty plea to criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation-causing substantial bodily harm and sentenced him to a little over 11 years in prison — 134 months — by imposing consecutive sentences for the two convictions. He will receive credit for 62 days already served in custody.

Two charges were dismissed: criminal vehicular homicide-operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner and theft of a motor vehicle.

Before handing down the sentence, Bartscher asked Her-Xiong, 33, of Minneapolis, if he wanted to address the courtroom. He looked toward the area where Annen’s family and friends were sitting and apologized. “I hope that one day you guys can forgive me,” he said.

After the sentencing, Cook said in an interview that although she is pleased with consecutive sentences, “there’s never enough jail time for justice. He still gets to enjoy his freedom when he gets out.”

Driving a stolen car

The crash occurred at about 3 a.m., when Her-Xiong ran a stop sign at Atlantic Street and Minnehaha Avenue in the city’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood.

Her-Xiong was driving a stolen Ford Focus 61 mph in a 30-mph zone. He had accelerated after seeing a police car. Following the collision, he and a passenger fled on foot.

The officer had spotted the Focus, and, after running its license plates, discovered the car had been reported stolen the day before from a woman who had left her car running while she went inside to drop off her daughter.

The officer pursued the car and was at least five blocks behind when Her-Xiong ran the stop sign and broadsided Annen’s 2007 PT Cruiser. The officer then activated his emergency lights and siren.

The officer found Annen and her longtime friend, Kelly Burg, pinned inside the PT Cruiser. Annen was not moving, and Burg was injured, suffering from three broken ribs. The officer started CPR on Annen until medics arrived to take over. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

A female passenger in the Focus told police Her-Xiong had asked her to hang out that evening. She said he had picked her and her cousin up in Minneapolis and they drank alcohol while together. She told police he was driving her home at the time of the crash and that she did not know the car was stolen.

Prior convictions

Xia Her-Xiong Booking Photo
Xia Her-Xiong (Courtesy of the Ramsey County sheriff’s office)

At the time of the crash, Her-Xiong had 13 prior felony convictions dating back to 2009, seven of which were motor vehicle thefts. He also had two pending criminal cases and was on probation.

His latest conviction came on Oct. 12, 2020, after he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting theft of movable property, a trailer. Ramsey County District Judge Robert Awsumb stayed a 26-month prison sentence and gave him one year in the county workhouse — with credit for 206 days already served in custody — and three years of supervised probation.

Just over a month later, Her-Xiong left the workhouse while on unsupervised temporary release. He was arrested five days after that and sent back to the workhouse under the same terms of the sentence.

On Dec. 14, 2020, probation recommended that Her-Xiong be released from the workhouse — with 11 days left to serve — due to the COVID-19 pandemic, court records show. Three days later, Judge JaPaul Harris granted the recommendation and Her-Xiong was released into probation.

Rice Street resident

Annen was a White Earth tribal member and a lifelong Rice Street resident, her family said.

She was a mother of three and a grandmother of four. When her son, Jacob Caroll, was born, she moved up to Detroit Lakes to raise him out of the city, Cook said. When he turned 18 and moved away to California, Annen moved back to St. Paul and began staying with Cook.

Cook said the pain “cuts deep,” especially when she realizes her family won’t be able to make the “simple” memories with her — family vacations, barbecues, laughing.

“My entire family has been in a state of grief,” she said. “It’s been a daily struggle to keep all our lives going forward.”

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