A 29-year-old Edina man is due in court Tuesday in connection with the fatal crash that killed a young mother and both of her children early Sunday morning.
Amanda Jean Thomas wasn't far from childhood home when she died. Thomas, 29, of Fridley, was driving toward the Broadway bridge over the Mississippi River when her car was hit by a man driving a stolen car, as he was being chased by a state trooper.
Thomas grew up in northeast Minneapolis -- the daughter of a Minneapolis cop. Friends and family say she had a rocky life when she was younger; she had her first child before she was 18.
Patty Sherburne is the cousin of Thomas' late father. Her kids grew up with Amanda, and she often came over for Christmas Eve gatherings.
"Amanda didn't have an easy life growing up," said Sherburne, adding that Thomas had bought a house a few years ago "and really had a life, finally."
Thomas lived in a small home on 6th Street in Fridley, about six blocks west of Fridley High School. Friends say she recently got a job and was making arrangements for her kids to go to child care for the first time.
Thomas had two sons -- Andre Mack, Jr., 12, and an infant, Akeron, who was born in August.
A long time friend and neighbor, Mary Svoboda, said Andre was a "real good kid."
"He listened to his mom. He was well behaved. He was a happy, bubbly boy, too. Always smiling and happy," said Svoboda.
Thomas and the two boys had been at a friend's house, possibly for a Hanukkah celebration, on Saturday night. Thomas had embraced Judaism and converted about five years ago, according to her relative Patty Sherburne.
It was just after midnight on Sunday when they headed home in Amanda's 16-year-old Chevy Caprice.
At the same time, a state trooper had spotted a motorist driving erratically on Interstate 94, turned on his squad lights and tried to pull the car over. Instead, the car, a stolen Honda Accord, raced ahead and up a freeway offramp.
Authorities said the car shot through as many as 10 intersections before it hit Thomas' car broadside. The crash crushed Thomas's car. Witnesses said the collision threw Andre out of the vehicle and into a nearby building. He and Thomas both died at the scene. The infant died at Hennepin County Medical Center shortly after the crash.
The driver ran away on foot and was arrested a short time later.
State Patrol spokesman Eric Roeske said the trooper had actually begun to fall back from the pursuit when the crash happened.
"The trooper was following him, but was not keeping up with him because of the extreme speed the suspect had accelerated to," said Roeske. "He continued driving in this reckless manner, in total disregard for anyone's safety. And as a result, three innocent lives were lost."
Friends say Thomas' mother flew home Sunday night from Oregon, where she has worked as a motel manager.
Mary Svoboda, Thomas' friend, said Amanda's mother found a final gesture of her devotion for her boys at Amanda's now-empty home.
"She had a Christmas tree up with some little things under the tree for the boys," said Svoboda, "and those boys will never get to have those things under the Christmas tree."
The driver of the stolen car, a 29-year-old Edina man, was arrested in connection with the crash and is being held at the Hennepin County jail. He's scheduled to make a court appearance Tuesday afternoon.