Crime & Courts

Family of teen killed in crash shares heartbreak at death

Rebecca June Soderman
Rebecca June Soderman

Family members of an 18-year-old Lake Barrington High School student killed after the car she was a passenger in crashed into a tree at
93 mph on March 4, 2017, tearfully described her as someone who “cared more about the feelings of others than those of herself.”

The emotional effect statements about the death of Rebecca June Soderman were made Friday before McHenry County Judge Micheal Coppedge, weeks after the driver of the vehicle, Matthew Zeek, 25, of Rolling Meadows, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide.

Zeek, who was speeding in a 25 mph zone on Plum Tree Road west of Rock Ridge Road in Barrington Hills, was sentenced to 2½ years of probation.

He also was sentenced to community service and served 30 days of a 180-day jail sentence. Should he violate terms of his probation, the remainder of his jail sentence will be imposed, prosecutors said.

He also is required to make a donation to Volo Bog in Ingleside, where there is a bench in the name of Rebecca June Soderman and her mother, Cynthia, who died in November 2015.

Randall Soderman, the girl’s father, calmly read from a typed statement Friday of how he and his wife had adopted her days after she was born and how happy his older daughter, Charlotte, was to be a big sister.

Soderman said he felt he had let Rebecca June’s birth mother down because he could not protect her.

“This lady lovingly entrusted the care and safety of her child to our society through foster care, and ultimately to me. It gives me sorrow to know that trust was misplaced, that I let her down,” he said.

He said that after his wife died, Rebecca June always looked out for him. She often told him “Daddy, I’ll always have your back.”

But as he had to make the decision to take her off life support and the family stood around in tears when she took her last breath, he recalled, “I wasn’t able to protect her back.”

Although, he said, the “scar” of losing his daughter “will never heal,” he has “all the wonderful parental memories of watching Rebecca grow into a young woman, yet will never be able to witness how she would have used those lessons learned in childhood.”

“I’ll never see her graduate high school or attend a college, find a career, walk her down the aisle, see her raise a family and make her mark on the world,” he said.

“She was first to be beside someone in need,” he said. “She befriended all of those who did not have a friend.”

Soderman said he did not ask that Zeek be sent to prison because he was someone his daughter had cared about. He said sending him to prison would not bring her back and only harden him.

Her older sister, Charlotte Anliker, who also was adopted by the Sodermans, said that when she was a little girl she would “use every birthday cake wish, every penny in a fountain to wish for one thing: a sister.”

She recalled the day they went and picked up Rebecca June from a social worker, and she was the first person in the family to hold her.

“The social worker placed her directly in my tiny, 4-year-old arms” she said. “I wonder often what she would be up to right now … . Rebecca was a wonderful little sister, friend and person and I was lucky to have her in my life for as along as I did. We all were. There are many people out there, people she was supposed to meet, whose lives she was supposed to change that will never be so lucky.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Rita Gara read statements from the girl’s friends, who described her as “kind, polite, hard-working, intelligent and thoughtful.”

One friend wrote: “She had so much she wanted to do in the future. She was such a fun, free-loving spirit.”

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