Just before a Whittier man was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison for three counts of vehicular manslaughter, the father of one of those victims had a chance to describe the three years of pain he has endured.
On March 8, Dealio Lockhart, 38, pleaded guilty to causing a crash that killed three people on Feb. 27, 2016: Brian Lewandowski, 18; Michelle Littlefield, 19, both of Valencia; and 52-year-old UPS truck driver Scott Treadway, 52, of Mira Loma.
Lockhart’s car flew into the truck while racing another vehicle on Interstate 5 in Commerce.
“I called him out,” said Willy Littlefield, reflecting on the victim impact statement he shared with the court Friday when Lockhart was sentenced.
“I said, ‘You killed my baby.’”
But, when Lockhart turned around to face Littlefield, to face the court and the families whose lives he affected, he asked for forgiveness.
“I said I forgive him,” Littlefield said. “But, just because I forgive doesn’t mean the pain is not there.”
Recapping what went on inside the emotionally charged courtroom Friday, Willy Littlefield had to pause a couple of times, especially when he mentioned his daughter by name.
“Seven of us got to speak,” he said.
“The district attorney read a letter from the Lewandowski family,” he said, noting it would bankrupt the world of words to list the amount of pain and sorrow endured.
“I was (speaker) No. 2 out of the chute,” Littlefield said.
On the question of forgiveness, he said he took his cue from God and from his daughter, noting, “She would not have wanted any ill will.
“Forgiving is something you do,” he said. “God wants us to forgive. You don’t poison your soul.”
Despite knowing what to do and what had to be said, arriving at forgiveness wasn’t easy, he said.
“The devastation was unbelievable,” Littlefield said, thinking back to the crash that killed his daughter.
”It was a terrible day for all of us,” he said. “There are no winners here.”
There were hugs in the courtroom Friday. Lockhart said he was sorry.
“It’s hard for me, because I want to say so many things,” Littlefield said.
One of the things he wanted to share with the court Friday was a letter his daughter wrote to her future self, called “Tomorrow,” in which she imagines herself at age 34, married with children, successful.
It was all he could muster, her father said, not to cry.
One of the most profound points made by Michelle Littlefield in her letter written as a school assignment reads, “(For) every second of this journey of life, you are learning.”
On the night of Feb. 27, 2016, her journey ended.
No marriage, no kids, no graduating from USC — as she envisioned.
She and Lewandowski were on their way home to Valencia from Disneyland. Two additional young people, who were passengers with them in their Nissan, were critically injured. The four friends were employees of Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Eight minutes after midnight, as Feb. 28 began, Willy Littlefield sent a text to his daughter that read:
“Michelle you didn’t return any of my calls, your mom and I are very concerned about you.”
Littlefield and Lewandowski died as a result of injuries suffered in a crash just one minute after midnight Feb. 28 on Interstate 5 in Commerce.
At 1:55 a.m., on Feb. 28, 2016, the Valencia dad sent a follow-up text message.
“Hi Dinky, r u OK?”
There was no reply, he said, shortly after the crash.
“That’s what I called her: Dinky.”
It would be near sunrise that day three years ago when the elder Littlefield learned he’d lost his only child in a fiery multi-vehicle crash blamed on freeway racing.
At times, when the sadness ebbs inside him, he said, Littlefield becomes filled instead with anger, galvanized and directed at the “senseless” and “stupid” culture of street racing.
“I’m on a campaign,” he said, referring to a plan to end street racing.
Lockhart, an admitted street racer, meanwhile, is about to begin his 22-year-plus prison sentence.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to 18 counts connected to the crash that killed three.
He was originally charged with three counts of second-degree murder and four counts of reckless driving causing injury, but the amended complaint he received as part of the plea arrangement included:
Three counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Four counts of engaging in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway causing a specified injury.
Eleven counts of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.
After his guilty plea was entered, Willy Littlefield said he found little solace in the plea.
“There is no equity, no redemption, no winners here,” he said after the plea hearing. “I can’t say I’m happy. I can’t say I’m satisfied.”
Getting the chance Friday, however, to express his forgiveness — the way God and his daughter would have wanted, he said — was an important first step into his future.