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Fargo woman gets two years in prison for death of man on car hood

Alicia Marie Johnson1 / 2
Joshua Fonder poses for a photo Sept. 9, 2015. Special to Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO, N.D.—Sharon Akin broke into tears as she told the court Monday, Jan. 22, about the loved ones that her friend Joshua Fonder left behind—including his 9-year-old son—when his girlfriend's reckless driving killed him.

"I've known Josh for 23 years; that is over half of my life. He was an important person to me, his brothers, his mother, my husband and son," she said. "We tried for many years to help him through his addiction — not only his addiction to drugs, but his addiction to toxic people."

A few chairs over in the Cass County courtroom, the woman she blamed for Fonder's death, Alicia Marie Johnson, 28, sat in orange jail garb with her legs shackled.

Johnson had agreed Monday to plead guilty to several charges, but vehicular manslaughter wasn't one of them despite prosecutor Reid Brady stating that Fonder died after he fell off the car's hood while Johnson drove at a high speed.

She didn't report the accident and attempted to cover it up by cleaning the car, authorities said.

Fonder died May 29, seven days after falling into a coma as a result of a traumatic head injury. He was 33.

As part of a plea deal, Johnson's manslaughter charge was dismissed, but she pleaded guilty to two remaining charges: leaving the scene of a deadly accident, a crime of equal severity, and a lesser crime of reckless endangerment.

She also took plea deals in a drug-dealing case and a case involving trafficking stolen goods.

Johnson shook her head when Judge Steven McCullough asked her if she had anything to say before he issued a sentence.

She was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for reckless endangerment with credit for six months already served. She also was sentenced to two years for leaving the scene of a deadly accident, but all of it was suspended pending a successful two years on probation. The judge also ordered $2,047 in restitution.

The maximum sentence for leaving the scene of a deadly accident, a Class B felony, is 10 years in prison. The maximum sentence for reckless endangerment, a Class C felony, is five years in prison.

Akin, one of Fonder's childhood friends, was at the hearing to tell the court what he meant to her; her husband, Wyatt, Fonder's best friend since childhood; and Fonder's brother, Jeff. Both men were in the courtroom, as well.

"I just wanted to say that the impact this loss has had on our family and our friends and Josh's son has been unprecedented," she said.

"We were forced to watch Josh die over the course of a week as his body shut down, his brain died," she said. "My husband and his brother were there holding his hands until he took his last breath."

Akin's husband said the death also affects Fonder's son, Berkley.

"The less he knows about this, the better," Wyatt Akin said. "He's had a lot of loss in his life for how old he is. He knows his dad is gone. He doesn't need to know much more right now. He's fairing as well as a 9-year-old can."

According to police reports, Johnson told investigators she and Joshua Fonder had a heated argument in the car May 22 and she felt threatened. After she tricked him into getting out, she tried to drive off as he jumped on top of the car and started pounding on it. She claimed she gave him several chances to get off, but he didn't.

Witnesses reported her driving at a high speed and swerving. Fonder struck his head on the pavement when he fell off.

Friends and family said Fonder was never violent, and they accused Johnson of abusing him, including stabbing him during a fight and leaving him with bruises.

Akin told the court that Fonder was a "kind, loving, caring" person.

Besides the May 22 incident that led to Fonder's death, the plea deal also included two other 2017 incidents, one in which Johnson was charged with trafficking in stolen goods and the other in which she was charged with attempting to commit a crime, namely selling meth, and delivering the drugs, both Class B felonies.

The stolen goods charge was dismissed, and she agreed to pay restitution.

The charge of delivering drugs was dismissed, but Johnson agreed to plead guilty to attempting to commit a crime. The judge sentenced her to two and a half years in prison with credit for six months served, but that will be served at the same time as the sentence for leaving the scene of a deadly accident.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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