A former Uber driver who went on a 2016 shooting rampage in Michigan that left six strangers dead and two severely injured was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole after loved ones of his victims made tearful statements and asked for the maximum punishment.
Justin Dalton, 48, showed no remorse, refused to offer an apology or make a statement on why he committed the ambush killings of four women and a father and his teenage son in Kalamazoo.
“Our prisons are not designed to be for those folks we are mad at, but for those folks we are afraid of, and you clearly fall into that category,” Judge Alexander Lipsey told Dalton at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.
In a surprise move and against the advice of his attorney, Dalton pleaded guilty on Jan. 7 to six counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.
When he was arrested, he told police that an “evil figure” on his Uber app took control of his mind and body the day he committed the killings in between picking up passengers.
‘You are nothing but very ugly and dark. You have nothing to give this world.’
Killed in the Feb. 20, 2016, murder spree were Mary Lou Nye, 62, and her sister-in-law Mary Jo Nye, 60; Dorothy “Judy” Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68; and Richard Smith, 53, and his 17-year-old son, Tyler.
“I suspect that you’re whole life you were nothing, a little man with little to offer the world,” Barbara Hawthorne’s nice, Laura Hawthorne, told Dalton while delivering her victim impact statement.
“You have nothing to give this world,” she said. “And having a weapon in your hand that night, gunning down innocent people, somehow made you feel big and powerful and strong. Now look at you. You are nothing but very ugly and dark. You have nothing to give this world. You are nothing.”
Dorothy “Judy” Brown’s son, Jeff Reynolds, said the murder spree affected more than just the people Dalton shot, telling the killer his “senseless” actions devastated families and the community of Kalamazoo.
“We’ve waited nearly three years of difficult delays for this evil murderer to be brought to justice,” Reynolds said. “Each delay of the trial has reopened the wounds for me and all of the families and has sometimes felt like this would never end.”
He said that while the case has concluded, “we will never see closure.”
Laurie Smith, the wife of Richard Smith and mother of Tyler Smith, noted that Dalton is married and has children.
“When you were shooting my son and the nine bullets were riveting in and out of his body as he was dying on the ground, were you thinking of your son?” she asked. “Were you angry at your wife and that’s why you killed my husband, shooting him over and over seven times as he laid dying on the ground? I don’t and never will understand how or why you could do what you did to them, but I hope you think about it the rest of your life every single day.”
‘You tried to kill us all. You failed’
Tiana Carruthers and 14-year-old Abigail Kopf survived being shot in the rampage.
While giving her statement, Carruthers demanded that Dalton look at her.
“You tried to kill us all. You failed,” she said. “I’m standing here, right here in your face … How does it make you feel? Look at me. How does it make you feel?”
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said it has been 1,080 days since Dalton “terrorized an entire community.” He figured at his age, Dalton will likely live another 25 to 30 years in prison, or approximately 10,000 days.
“Ten thousand days doesn’t come close to what you deserve,” Getting said in court. “I wish somehow it could be more.”