KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Those touched by the murderous rampage of Jason Dalton took turns telling the part-time Uber driver of the pain his Feb. 20, 2016 shooting spree caused before a judge sentenced Dalton to mandatory life in prison.
“I see pain in your hatred. You spread it like a disease,’’ shooting survivor Tiana Carruthers told Dalton through tears on Tuesday.
“I feel my heart and soul have been completely ripped out and destroyed beyond repair,’’ said Laurie Smith, whose husband and son were killed by Dalton in a parking lot. “I hope you experience deep hurt and sorrow in your soul for what you have done.’’
Jeff Reynolds said the murder of his 74-year-old mother was "a blow like no other.''
"I trust that the almighty God will haunt you eternally, starting now, with the fact that you are nothing but a pile of worthless evil,'' Reynolds told the portly, orange-clad killer.
Dalton did not address the court before Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander C. Lipsey sentenced him to mandatory life in prison on six counts of murder. The judge also sentenced Dalton to between 18-¾ and 40 years on two counts of attempted murder.
Dalton last month pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder for the Feb. 20, 2016 shooting spree in and around Kalamazoo that garnered international headlines.
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey S. Getting told the court it has been 1,080 days since Dalton “terrorized this entire community.’’
“I hope that every morning you wake up seeing the faces of those you've killed and injured,’’ Getting said. "When you lay down at night, I hope the last thought is the damage that you've done to this community.''
Dalton’s transfer to the state prison system will be a cause of celebration, Getting said.
“Today is the last day that Kalamazoo will suffer Jason Dalton,’’ Getting told the court. “And we will celebrate that you will never, ever be with us again.’’
Tuesday’s emotional sentencing hearing lasted more than 90 minutes. Eleven people gave victim impact statements.
Before sending Dalton away, the judge quoted former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu to articulate how the community picked itself up after the tragedy.
"Goodness is stronger than evil,'' Lipsey said. "Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. Life is stronger than death.’’
Dalton’s trial in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court got underway last month with jury selection. Potential jurors were to be questioned Monday, Jan. 7, but that was put on hold when Dalton’s attorney indicated that Dalton decided to plead guilty.
Defense attorney Eusebio Solis said he and Dalton discussed the “pros and cons’’ of the guilty pleas, including the penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Dalton, 48, opted to plead guilty because “he does not want to put his family through that or the victims' families through that,’’ Solis said at the time.
The shootings were carried out over several hours at three locations in Kalamazoo County. The first victim was 25-year-old Tiana Carruthers, who was shot in a Richland Township apartment complex parking lot shortly before 6 p.m. She survived.
About four hours later, Dalton went to the Seelye Kia car dealership in Kalamazoo, where he fatally shot 53-year-old Richard E. Smith, Jr. and Smith’s 17-year-old son, Tyler.
Dalton’s final stop was a Cracker Barrel restaurant off of Int. 94 in Texas Township. Four women were killed and a girl was wounded. The dead were Mary Lou Nye, 62, Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74 and Barbara Hawthorne, 68.
Abigail Kopf, who was 14 at the time, was critically injured.
Investigators determined that Dalton was working as an Uber driver the day of the shootings. He picked up fares in between the shootings.
Dalton told police the Uber app controlled him like it was an artificial presence that would "literally take over'' his body, court documents revealed.
He told police when he logged onto the Uber site, "it started making me feel like a puppet,'' Dalton said in an interview with police.
A timeline of the Jason Dalton case:
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