Driver in crash that killed Dover girl gets prison time

The late Anya Jackson’s family members stand outside the Kent County Courthouse on Wednesday morning. They are, from left, uncle Antoine Jackson, fiancee Danielle Mills with Anya’s 1-year-old sister Destini, father Anthony Jackson and grandmother Jacquelyn Garrett. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — A Dover man will serve three years and six months in prison for a 2016 tragic crash that killed a 6-year-old girl and injured two others.

David W. Randall, who pleaded guilty to first-degree vehicular homicide and DUI in Kent County Superior Court last month, was ordered Wednesday to pay nearly $6,800 in court costs and restitution and serve a year of probation upon release, among other conditions of the sentence.

Randall was 26 years old when his vehicle surged forward onto a sidewalk while attempting to park at White Oak Condos on July 26, 2016, investigation determined. Police said 6-year-old Anya Jackson was pinned to a tree and later died from her injuries at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover.

The girl’s mother and a family friend suffered non-life threatening injuries as well when struck.

Before Resident Judge William L. Witham issued the sentence to conclude a roughly 40-minute proceeding, attorneys and family members of both the victim and defendant spoke emotionally of the tragic loss that can’t be undone, highlighting the perils of drinking and driving.

Standing before the judge, and saying he “never meant for any of this to happen” Randall indicated that he was “truly, truly sorry for what happened … I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for my actions …

Pictured on a T-shirt worn by family members, the late Anya Jackson, then 6, is shown with her kindergarten graduation certificate.

“I take full responsibility and just want to say I’m truly, truly sorry for what happened.”

With Anya’s grandmother sobbing loudly enough to be heard throughout the courtroom for 10 seconds or more at one point, defense lawyer Michael Abram quickly clarified for the court how Anya was struck and said of Randall, “Since I’ve known him, never once has he tried to deny responsibility.”

Outside the courtroom after sentencing, grandmother Jacquelyn Garrett described the prison term as “a smack in the face, a slap of the hand. He got off easy.”

Randall’s uncle turned to the victimized family several times while addressing the court and lamenting the child’s death.

David Belton did not attempt to minimize the fatal mistakes his nephew made, apologizing repeatedly to Anya’s family while acknowledging he could never understand the pain and sorrow they must be feeling.

The uncle and attorney referred to Randall’s previously clean criminal record and his contrition, acknowledging his problem with alcohol that needs fixing.

When Randall does emerge from prison, Mr. Belton said his family “will not pound him for the rest of his life, but he will remember that he has a debt to pay for the rest of his life” and work for the good of society.

Errors aplenty

Deputy Attorney General Greg Babowal said Randall erred in the choices he made and now a girl was never able to celebrate her seventh birthday. He pointed to decisions to drink beer and brandy, and smoke marijuana while warned at least once he shouldn’t be driving as tragic mistakes.

“ … The court can’t do the one thing that everyone wants, and that’s to bring Anya back,” he said.

A MOTHER’S LETTER
Below is a letter LaShelle Love wrote to David W. Randall, who was convicted of first-degree vehicular homicide and DUI last month in the death of her 6-year-old daughter Anya on July 20, 2016. Ms. Love wrote the letter on March 21, just over a week before Randall was sentenced to three years and six months of prison on Wednesday for the incident.
Mr. David Randall:
I wanted you to know that as another person who is very imperfect, ultimately it is only God who can and will judge you for your actions that led to the death of my daughter Anya Lorraine Jackson.
Anya was only 6 years old, she would have been celebrating only seven years of life on this earth on March 25, 2010 (when) she was born. July 20 is a day I will never forget. The raw shock and the pains that I even feel physically in my chest is unbelievable.
Anya was the youngest of my eight children. She is my last as of now. She is a unique and rare beautiful soul. She was very thoughtful and very loving. Anya was … smart, beautiful and energetic.
I need you to know you took my hero David and my lil lady, my best friend. Anya slept with me every night; whenever and wherever we were we would be together. I felt a need to always keep her close and keep her near.
On this day you mowed us down I feel guilt at my need to always keep her under me physically cause that’s where she was hit and thrown from my side. I leapt in front of your car two times in a desperate attempt to save my daughter, yet somehow I am here and she is where me, her father and mom mom can’t hug or hold her.
Anya Lorraine Jackson has seven brothers and sisters she will never see again. Anya has a mother and father who will never see their child graduate high school or college, but we paid to bury our child.
Lastly, as time may dull your memory, remember my heart is forever broken. I cannot ever hold hate for you because Anya filled my heart with so much love that it is literally all I can focus on. Love, rainbows, mermaids, peace signs, and any thing happy, (are) all the things my daughter loved. Without this focus I would be an empty shell and a ghost of a person, I feel my daughter … I hear her laughter in my quiet moments and know I gotta go on.
I pose one question to anyone here today — Is there any punishment or monetary payout that can give me my daughter back?
— (Signed) LaShelle Love

The apologies and regret brought no solace to Anya’s father Anthony, who remembered his daughter for waking him up each morning before kindergarten with, “Good morning daddy. I love you,” followed by a hug.

Directing his attention to his own shattered mother, Mr. Jackson said he missed seeing her smile.

“No one knows my pain, my mother’s pain,” he said. “I have to see my mother like this for the rest of my life.”

Losing his child suddenly was “just crazy that you have her here one moment and the next moment she’s gone,” Mr. Jackson said.

Anya’s death “took part of my soul … and I will never be the same person,” Mr. Jackson said.

“What else can I do but live life” and learn lessons from the tragedy, he said.

Focusing to maintain composure Mr. Jackson said that while he “wants to forgive” Randall “but really doesn’t want to forget because if I do I forget my daughter.”

Minus Anya forever now, the father said he felt he was “serving a life sentence without my daughter.

“No jail sentence can replace not seeing my daughter and … that tears me down.”

Though he loved his first child “with everything in me” and could “stand up here for hours to tell you how I feel,” Mr. Jackson communicated to the judge that “it’s never going to bring her back but at least I can tell you how I feel.”

Finally, Mr. Jackson pledged to be a “stand-up guy like my daughter would want me to be.”

‘A tragic choice’

Prior to announcing sentencing, Judge Witham said the issue involved highly emotional circumstances and that he was obligated to take a dispassionate view when making a careful review of the crime and Randall’s disposition.

Mentioning that he came from a good family, Judge Witham said Randall “has no record but he (made) a tragic choice.

“When you choose to partake in alcohol and perhaps illegal substance abuse,” then trouble will follow, the court said.

Judge Witham noted that Randall had declined to post bail and remained incarcerated in the aftermath of the tragedy, indicating a willingness to take responsibility and accept punishment for his actions.

An approximately 0.18 blood-alcohol reading led to a crime and he told Randall, “when you got behind the wheel you put your life in jeopardy and everyone’s life in the state of Delaware in jeopardy.”

LaShelle Love holds a photograph of her late daughter Anya Jackson on Wednesday morning outside the Kent County Courthouse.

The judge ordered that the Delaware Department of Correction should determine Randall’s treatment for substance abuse, and he should participate in all programs possible “so when you emerge you can achieve something noble in your life.”

Clutching her smiling daughter’s photo outside the Kent County Courthouse afterward, Anya’s mother LaShelle Love recalled that “I was there when she was born and she was by my side as she always was” when the crash occurred.

Ms. Love, who said she didn’t remember getting hit by the vehicle, said she suffered a concussion and contusions to her legs, arms and knees.

“They said they thought I was dead,” Ms. Love recalled witnesses later telling her.

Emotional recovery is ongoing daily, and Ms. Love was thankful for the support of police, hospital staff and the Dover community in general.

Post-traumatic stress remains, Ms. Love said, and “my one pain in my heart is the one that won’t go away.”

Regarding Randall, Ms. Love said, “I don’t have hate for this guy. I forgive him even though I don’t like what he did.

“At the end of the day the only judge is God. We’re all imperfect.

“Anya was all about ‘love, love, love’ and said ‘Mom, I want people to come together and not hate.’ ”

Now, Ms. Love said she feels “obligated to live my life and become what my child would have been.”

Previously taking online classes in behavioral science, Ms. Love said the tragedy now has her focused on studying to become a lawyer who can “fight for cases like my daughter’s to make sure justice is done.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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