For Immediate Release - December 20, 2010

Topsfield Man Pleads Guilty To Involuntary Manslaughter In Death Of Mother

A Topsfield man with a history of alcoholism who verbally and physically abused his elderly mother, pleaded guilty today in Salem Superior Court to involuntary manslaughter.

Judge Timothy Feeley sentenced Robert Friberg, 46, of 44 Grant Hill Drive, to 2 - 2 ½ years in state prison. Friberg also pleaded guilty to assault and battery on an elderly person, and intimidation of a witness, as well as assault battery by means of a dangerous weapon on a person 60 years of age or older. For those offenses he will be on probation for 7 years upon his release.

Essex Assistant District Attorney Melissa Woodard had urged the judge to impose a 7-10 year state prison sentence. She told the court that on March 20, 2009, the victim, who suffered from high blood pressure, arrived home from work. Upon her arrival Robert Friberg, who lived with her, demanded that she go to a local pharmacy to pick up his pain medication.

When she refused Friberg became very angry and grabbed his mother, put his fist in her face and profanely and repeatedly yelled at her to pick up his medication. In fear, Mrs. Friberg went to the kitchen to call police. Friberg and his mother struggled over the telephone. He eventually overpowered her and struck her in the arm with the phone, causing two large bruises.

Mrs. Friberg fled to a neighbor's house and her neighbor called the police. Police administered two portable breath tests to the defendant, which revealed his blood alcohol content to be approximately three times the legal limit (.249 and .229).

A short time after the defendant was arrested Mrs. Friberg began dry heaving and complained of difficulty breathing and back pain. She also had numbness in her right leg. She was transported first to Beverly Hospital, and then to Boston Medical Center. She died at 4:09 p.m. the next day. An autopsy revealed that Mrs. Friberg's aorta had ruptured as the result of high blood pressure, spiked by the stressful incident with her son.

Upon his release Friberg must remain alcohol free, is subject to random screens for drugs and alcohol, must not use any non-prescribed controlled substances, will be evaluated for substance abuse, and must participate in any substance abuse programs deemed necessary by probation. He will also undergo a mental health evaluation, and for three years an intoxilator device will be in his residence.