Charlie Alleman had made an important decision.
He was on his way to his late shift at a glass company in Shakopee. He had decided to put in his two-week notice that night. Charlie had been bullied there and, with encouragement from his sister and mother, he was ready to be done.
It was 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, June 21, 2022. He drove westbound on Highway 101 in Shakopee in the red 2014 Volkswagen Golf that his mother had given him earlier that day.
As he approached the intersection with Valley Park Drive, Charlie probably saw the headlights coming toward him in the distance, but there was no way he could have known how fast they were approaching.
As he turned left, crossing the eastbound lanes, a Mitsubishi Outlander traveling at nearly 90 mph slammed into Charlie’s car, killing him instantly, and setting his car on fire.
Charlie Mo Alleman was 19 years old.
Charlie was born on March 9, 2003, in a small Guatemalan village. His sister-to-be, Maria, had been born a week earlier in another Guatemalan city. Both were in orphanages.
In Minnesota, Nadia Alleman wasn’t able to have kids. After two failed in vitro attempts, she and her husband, Doug, decided to try adoption. Doug was about to turn 40.
“Once you turned 40 you weren’t eligible for infant adoption anymore, because the death rate in Guatemala was, like, everyone dies at 45,” Nadia said. “So, in their minds, they didn’t want to give kids to someone who’s about to die.”
The adoption process in Guatemala took nearly a year and a half, so they would not have been able to adopt again. “So, we decided to adopt two babies at once,” Nadia said. The new family returned to Eden Prairie.
The couple eventually divorced, and Nadia, Charlie and Maria continued to live in Eden Prairie. Brother and sister attended Eagle Heights Spanish Immersion School and graduated from Eden Prairie High School in 2021.
At about 3 a.m. on June 22, Nadia awoke to the sound of a knock on her door. As she opened the door, two Eden Prairie police officers stood on her front step.
Did she know anyone that drives a red Volkswagen?
Her son, Charlie, she told them, not fully understanding the question.
He had been in an accident, they told her. In a panic, she begged them to take her to the hospital to be with him.
The officers told her that Charlie was not at a hospital. He was at a morgue in Minnetonka. He had been killed in the accident.
After four months of tears, time to tell his story
It’s been over four months since that day. Maria and Nadia decided it was time to tell their story – and Charlie’s story.
Silent tears ran down each of their faces as they spoke.
“I’m just hanging in there, to be honest,” Maria said last week. “It’s been really hard.”
“Maria cries at least five times a day,” Nadia said. “She’s triggered by everything. She’s been wearing all of her brother’s clothes. And his jewelry, and she’ll sleep in his room.”
Charlie and Maria were complete opposites, Nadia said. Charlie was pretty quiet, and Nadia calls Maria her “Instagram maven.”
“We’ve been spending a ton of time together,” Nadia said, “because I don’t want to let her out of my sight.”
Dealing with the grief that accompanies the loss of a child has challenged Nadia.
“I’ve been reading every book on grief that I can find,” Nadia said. “And one of the insights I learned is that when you lose a child, it is a different kind of grief because when your child suddenly dies, your hopes and dreams for the future suddenly die.
“I’m still in the bargaining stage,” she said. “I tell Charlie he needs to find a weak wall in Heaven and poke a hole through it and come back, you know what I mean?
“I wrote a long letter to God because he’s only a father, and I’m a mother, and there’s things He needs to take care of with Charlie up there.”
Nadia describes herself as a strong Christian, but says “Charlie’s faith was 10 times stronger than mine.” She takes comfort in that, she said.
Nadia and Maria each marveled at the support they’ve received since the crash.
“That night, the Eden Prairie police officers didn’t want to leave,” Nadia said. “They wanted to make sure somebody was with us.”
Neighbors and friends have been at their side ever since.
“We have an incredible, incredible social network supporting us right now,” Nadia said. “I really tried not to cut off connection to people because I swear to God, all I want to do is just sit in bed and cry and sleep and put the blinds down.”
But she says she’s doing better. “I’m back to working full time and I’m seeing people all the time and people stop over constantly,” she said. “And we’re still getting meals. And it’s been, you know, four months.”
Charlie had attention deficit disorder (ADD), Nadia said, “and a touch of autism. Not a lot, but enough to make life hard. He could see mad, sad, and glad, but he couldn’t read any kind of nuanced emotion. He certainly didn’t understand sarcasm.”
Eye contact made him very uncomfortable, Nadia said. “He just couldn’t understand why that was such a big deal,” she said.
“But he was my kind, sweet, gentle one,” she said.
Early in his life, school was difficult. Occasionally, he was bullied. “He would tell Maria and Maria was like, ‘I got this,’” Nadia said.
“The next day he goes to school, and he’s like, ‘Everyone’s so nice. It’s amazing!’”
By sixth grade, Charlie had things pretty well handled on his own, Nadia said. By the time he got to high school, he had weaned himself off his ADD medications and stopped going to therapy for autism.
“High school was really good for him,” Nadia said. “He had a good run and he made these incredible, kind, gentle friends. None of them had autism, but they understood him.”
Charlie and Maria applied together for jobs at Valley Fair.
“We did our training together,” Maria said. “The first day I called home crying. They had me picking up garbage. I was like, absolutely not.”
Charlie, on the other hand, loved the job. He worked there one summer in garden maintenance, and the next summer, he went back as a lifeguard.
Charlie also loved anime and video games, and he competed in track.
“It wasn’t because he liked running at all,” Nadia said, chuckling. “It was because he liked to be chased. Then he took up cross country. It kept him in great shape.”
He also loved growing things, Nadia said.
Charlie had a small garden in front of the house that he took care of meticulously. After he died, his friends stopped by the house regularly all summer. “Every time, the first thing they did was water the garden because they knew how important it was to (Charlie),” Nadia said.
When video games took too much of Charlie’s time, Nadia challenged him to choose three new hobbies. “He didn’t want to,” Nadia said. But eventually he agreed. He chose go-carting. “He had found a place in Burnsville to go try it, but never got to go before the accident,” Nadia said.
The second hobby was painting miniature soldiers and re-enacting battle scenes with them. “He told me it combined his love of both art and the military,” she said.
The third was joining the Armored Combat League (ACL), a worldwide extreme sport where participants dress up as armor-clad warriors and re-enact famous battles. As part of ACL, participants could only wear the exact type of armor from the battle’s time period.
“In anticipation of our upcoming meeting with the ACL Minnesota chapter, Charlie bought an authentic knight’s helmet,” Nadia said. “It was a former Lord’s helmet with the Lord’s face carved into the armor. The helmet arrived five days after Charlie died.”
It sits on a shelf in his bedroom – which looks pretty much as it did last June.
Playing the saxophone may have been Charlie’s most impressive skill.
“When he played, he was a totally different person,” Nadia said. “He was super confident. And he loved to be on a stage and he loved to do solos.”
She would ask him if he was nervous. “He’d say, ‘No, I just want to get up there. It’s taking too long.’ He didn’t really care what anyone thought. Autism is a blessing that way. He’s getting up there to play for himself. And if anyone’s there, great. If not, who cares? It really helped him thrive on stage.”
He was first chair saxophone from seventh grade on, and he was also the first chair in jazz band. He played the alto in regular band and the baritone sax in jazz band.
Maria and Nadia would like to see a display at EPHS telling Charlie’s story and how he died. They would donate his saxophones for the display. “Not for others to play,” Nadia said with a laugh. “He would hate that.”
Charlie’s story is an important one for high school-age kids, Maria said.
“I would like high school students to read his story,” she said. “This is what can happen. Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, this will never happen to me.’ But it does. Right here in Eden Prairie. I want people to see that.”
They are planning to contact school officials sometime soon.
Maria, who recently signed with a modeling agency, also is a budding designer and plans to create a clothing line in remembrance of Charlie. “Something that people will actually wear,” she said.
Nadia thinks Maria’s talents will be useful in their quest to increase awareness about drunk driving.
She started a petition online just to get things started, she said. Almost 2,200 people have signed it.
“I’m hoping that she can use her passion for volunteering to really take Mothers Against Drunk Driving to the next level,” she said.
The 26-year-old Hopkins man driving the car that killed Charlie has been charged with two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide in Scott County District Court.
A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 13, at which Nadia, Maria, and Doug will have the opportunity to give victim impact statements.
There were 131 alcohol-related deaths on Minnesota roads in 2021, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
When 2022 statistics are reported, Charlie Alleman’s name will be on that list. All of them have a story. Nadia and Maria Alleman want everyone to remember Charlie’s.
At the end of our interview, Maria remembered a dream she was having the night Charlie died.
“I remember this so vividly. It was you, me and Charlie,” she told her mom. “It felt like it was Heaven. It was like we were saying goodbye. He was hiding. And then he ran away and he was waving. Then he ran into a cloud.”
And then the phone rang.
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