GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Mikelle Besemer lived with her mother, Judy, raising three young children in Grand Rapids Township and preparing for the holidays just three days before Christmas.
But instead of basking in the joy of the season, Besemer had to bury her mother.
“We haven’t celebrated Christmas with my brother and my family yet because of what has happened,” Besemer told 24 Hour News 8.
Judy Besemer, 62, was a mother of two, grandmother of seven, devoted church member and lifelong West Michigan resident.
“She was just your best friend,” Mikelle Besemer said of her mother, with whom she had lived for 12 years. “She just loved everyone for who they were just as a person.”
“Kindhearted with a fierce spirit. She stood for what was right,” she added.
Just before 1 a.m. on Dec. 22, Judy Besemer was out shopping for Christmas presents. Michigan State Police say 50-year-old James Michael Williams ran the red light at Knapp Street NE and East Beltline Avenue and crashed into her car. She was less than a quarter mile from home.
Early the next morning, Mikelle Besemer woke to find her mother had not come home.
“I could tell that she hadn’t been home,” Besemer said. “It was very still and quiet.”
Then the door buzzer rang at the apartment. She looked out the door to see her brother in the company of a state trooper and county deputy.
“I could tell by the look on my brother’s face that something had happened,” she said.
Her mother died within hours after the crash, leaving her to plan a funeral instead of a family Christmas.
Later, she would meet a Grand Rapids police officer at a restaurant and he would tell her that he was on scene at the crash.
“He just wanted me to know that she wasn’t alone,” Besemer said.
She said that glimpse into her mother’s final moments helped.
“You know what it did? It brought a sense of peace to me that I couldn’t find on my own,” she said.
In Kent County District Court on Wednesday, Williams was charged with drunk driving causing death.
Driving records from the Michigan Secretary of State show his license was revoked and expired at the time of the crash. He has multiple alcohol-related license infractions dating back two decades.
He lives near the scene of the crash.
Besemer said her faith calls on her to forgive him.
“I can love him as a person and I know his family must be grieving in their own way, too. I understand that,” she said.
Court documents say preliminary breath tests found Williams’ blood alcohol content was 0.22 and 0.23. That put him in the so-called super drunk category, nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08.
“Do I want to see him sit in jail? Absolutely. Because that would give him the opportunity to sit down and think about himself and what he did,” Besemer said. “He needs to think about that for a long time.”
She said the life of her mother, her children’s grandmother and a friend to so many has been stolen away while he will live.
“That’s the thing that makes me mad. Because now my mom’s life is gone because somewhere, he wasn’t held accountable,” she said.
Williams was released from the Kent County jail on a $50,000 bond. He will be back in Kent County District Court Feb. 1. If convicted, he could spend up to 15 years in prison.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Judy Besemer’s family cover her final expenses.