Kalamazoo rampage survivors face killer at sentencing

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who shot eight people in the Kalamazoo area, killing six of them, faced survivor Tiana Carruthers Tuesday, as well as the families his violent rampage forever changed.

Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Lipsey sentenced Jason Dalton to six counts of mandatory life in prison nearly three years after the murders of Rich and Tyler Smith, Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne, Mary Jo Nye and Mary Lou Nye. Abbie Kopf and Carruthers were also seriously wounded in the shootings.

The Feb. 20, 2016 shooting rampage started when Dalton shot Carruthers near her Richland Township home. Later, he gunned down father and son Rich and Tyler Smith outside a Kalamazoo car dealership. The last and bloodiest scene of the night was the parking lot of the Texas Township Cracker Barrel, where Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne, Mary Jo Nye and Mary Lou Nye were killed and Abbie was shot in the head. She survived, though she has lingering health problems linked to the wound.

“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? Were you angry at your wife, and that's why you killed my husband? Shooting him over and over, seven times as he lay dying on the ground?" Laurie Smith asked Dalton.

Emily Lenner revealed that she was planning to be at the dealership the night her brother and father were killed, but she fell asleep.

“I woke up at 3 a.m. to my mom screaming outside my apartment," Lenner tearfully recounted.

She said the last time she saw her dad alive, she forgot to give him a hug. The next time she would get to hug him was in the funeral home.

"Hugging and holding my dad's cold body was a nightmare that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Kissing my brother's cold, pale forehead will never leave my mind," she said between tears.

Lenner said every day is a living nightmare.

"I was a daddy’s girl to a 'T.' He always knew how to talk to me and always said the right things. He supported me and loved me even when I didn’t deserve it," she said. 

Lenner said at her wedding 10 months after the shootings, she walked down the aisle alone holding a box of their ashes. She said she had a piece of her dad's shirt sewn into her dress and a rose rested where her brother should've been standing.

"I sat broken as the daddy-daughter dance played to the song that I planned to dance to with my dad, remembering back when I was 12 years old and I played my dad the song and he cried saying how much he loved it," she said.

Lenner said Rich and Tyler also missed the birth of her daughter.

"Nothing could prepare me for the pain I feel when I look into my daughter's eyes, knowing she will never get to know her grandpa or her uncle," she told the court between sobs.

Lenner said she was supposed to grow up with her brother, but now she can't.

“He never got to graduate high school, he never got to turn 21, he never got to get married, but mostly, he never got the chance to live his whole life," she said.

“Every day I wake up to the reality that two people I loved more than life itself are gone," Laurie Smith said. “And I have to get up anyway and do what I have to do to be there for my daughter and other family members."

>> Complete coverage of the Kalamazoo shooting spree


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