KALAMAZOO – Within 30 minutes of being sentenced Tuesday to six prison terms of life without parole, Jason Dalton was gone.
“He is on his way to Jackson prison as we speak,” Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting told reporters outside the county courthouse. “Good riddance.
“He is gone and never should be back in Kalamazoo for any reason and that is a good thing,” Getting said. “I am glad to see him go.”
On Jan. 7 Dalton entered guilty pleas to 16 counts including six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder in the Feb. 20, 2016, shootings of eight people across Kalamazoo County.
Police said Dalton, 48 first shot and wounded Tiana Carruthers, 25, in a parking lot of the Meadows town home complex in Richland Township just before 6 p.m.
He then killed Rich Smith, 53, and his son, Tyler Smith, 17, in the parking lot of Seelye Ford on Stadium Drive just after 10 p.m. and then shot four more people in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel Restaurant on 9th Street in Texas Township.
Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda and Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, of Battle Creek were killed. Abigail Kopf, then 14, was with the women and was critically injured.
During a 90-minute hearing, Carruthers and 10 family members of those killed spoke to Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Lipsey about the impact of the shootings.
Some spoke directly to Dalton, who sat throughout the hearing looking down and away from the speaker’s podium.
Neither Dalton nor his attorney, Eusebio Solis of Battle Creek, spoke during the hearing.
“You took (life) away from six people,” Penny Hawthorne, sister-in-law of Barbara Hawthorne said. “Why did you play God and decide to do that? We will never know and maybe you will never know.
“You ended the lives of our loved ones of people who could make this world a better place. You decided to one night to play God and wipe six people off this beautiful earth.”
Hawthorne told the court she was raised knowing that one person can change the world.
“I thought it was for the good and now I know it can be for the bad.”
Investigators said Dalton shot the victims at three different locations and worked as a Uber driver. He told police he was told to kill through his Uber app.
Each speaker told the judge and the courtroom the good things about the victims.
“She could make you feel like you were the only person in a room of one thousand people,” Laura Hawthorne said about her aunt, Barbara Hawthorne. “She was about peace and making life fair.”
“You,” Laura Hawthorne said to Dalton, “were nothing. You are a little man. Did it make you feel big and powerful and strong?
“You are nothing and you give nothing to the world. You no longer matter to me. You are nothing but darkness.”
Jeff Reynolds said the shooting and the death of his mother, Dorothy Brown, devastated his family.
“We have brokenness and emptiness that will never go away.”
Reynolds described Dalton as “worthless, despicable evil.”
His brother, Robert Reynolds, said Dalton “has no remorse and this is no redemption in him. I will never get over what happened to my mother. He is lucky because he still exists on this earth and my mother doesn’t.”
Carruthers, who was shot while trying to protect several children outside her apartment complex, told Dalton, “You tried to kill us all but you failed.”
After the hearing several of the family members gathered with Getting and Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Williams to speak with reporters.
Getting said by entering the pleas, Dalton has very limited appellant opportunities.
“We are now done with Mr. Dalton,” Getting said.
Robert Reynolds said not having the trial was a relief even if some questions will never be answered.
“I know a lot of what happened but I don’t know every detail. And I am relieved not to know every detail. There were some things I didn’t want to see or know.”
His brother, Jeff Reynolds, said the families have waited a long time for the end of the legal case.
“There is a sense of relief that we will see the guilty party locked up for life. It will give us satisfaction that he will never walk free.
“But I can’t say there is closure,” Jeff Reynolds said. “There is no closure. We can say goodbye to this chapter and look forward to the healing but it has affected our lives and we will never be free from it.”
Waffle House shooting: Travis Reinking indicted on 17 counts in Nashville Waffle House shooting
10 days, 4 hate crimes: The parallel paths of 4 angry men who terrorized America
Follow Trace Christenson on Twitter: @TSChristenson
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/05/ex-uber-driver-sentenced-six-life-terms-deadly-michigan-rampage/2781590002/