A Whittier man was sentenced Friday to 22 years and four months in state prison for taking part in a February 2016 street race that caused a multi-vehicle pileup on the Golden State (5) Freeway in Commerce that left three people dead and four others seriously injured.
Dealio Lockhart, who was 35 at the time of the crash and is now 37, made a lengthy apology in court to the victims’ families and those who were injured, and cited the “foolishness of street racing.”
“I fully accept responsibility and all the consequences that come with my actions that night,” he said. “I am deeply sorry for my reckless actions that night.”
He said that he “never thought something like this would happen” and that it pains him to know that his actions have taken away someone’s daughter, someone’s son and someone’s husband.
Lockhart — a college graduate who worked as a field producer on the TV show “Dancing With The Stars” — pleaded guilty March 8 to three counts of vehicular manslaughter, four counts of engaging in a speed vehicle contest and 11 counts of assault likely to cause great bodily injury in connection with the pileup just after midnight Feb. 27, 2016.
Lockhart was behind the wheel of a Dodger Challenger during an approximately 11-mile street race against the driver of a Dodge Charger in a “high-speed game of cat and mouse,” according to Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake.
An investigation determined that Lockhart was driving 127 mph just 2 1/2 seconds before the impact, the prosecutor said.
“We believe that he ran into some slower traffic that caused him to brake heavily and under heavy braking he lost control of his car and skidded into this UPS (United Parcel Service) driver,” Blake said after the hearing, noting that the Dodge struck the UPS tractor-trailer’s fuel tank at an estimated 82 mph, sending the larger vehicle into the retaining wall on the right side of the freeway before it careened across the center divider and flipped into oncoming traffic — including a Nissan — on the northbound lanes of the freeway.
The truck came to rest on top of a red Ford Explorer on the northbound side of the freeway, north of Washington Boulevard, and immediately burst into flames.
The UPS driver, Scott Treadway, 52, of Mira Loma, was killed in the crash. He had been driving trucks for the UPS delivery service for 30 years.
Two people in the Nissan also died — Michelle Littlefield, 19, and Brian Lewandowski, 18, both of Valencia.
Lewandowski and Littlefield were both students at College of the Canyons, worked at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and were returning from a trip to Disneyland when the crash occurred. Lewandowski was the son of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detective Victor Lewandowski.
Two other people in the Nissan were seriously injured, along with two other motorists who were driving behind them, according to the prosecutor.
“I was one of the victims … I lost two of my good friends,” Alfonso Morillo told the judge, noting that he was in a coma before recovering and that another friend is “still in a coma.”
He noted that he is now the “only person able to talk for my friends,” whom he said had an “amazing day” visiting Disneyland.
Littlefield’s father, William, spoke directly to Lockhart throughout much of his emotional victim impact statement, in which he lashed out at “The Fast and Furious” movie franchise, actor Vin Diesel and the automaker Dodge for “promoting deadly street racing” and urged the defendant to repent.
“Dealio, I would not guess what a fair sentence in a case like this (is). Emotionally, I am off-center and overwhelmed. No sentence is fair. You are morally bankrupt and you cannot pay back or restore what is lost. We are left to suffer for the rest of our lives,” the young woman’s father said. “Dealio, I hate the pain that you have inflicted on me and others — the absolute worst pain there is to lose my only child, Michelle Littlefield.”
Littlefield’s mother, Gigi, said, “Street racing kills,” noting that the crash changed so many innocent lives forever.
The young woman’s aunt, Karen Perdue, told the defendant, “Mr. Lockhart, I don’t forgive you. God can do that.”
“They died horrific, horrific, violent deaths,” she said, while noting that others had suffered excruciating injuries.
In a statement read in court by the prosecutor, the Lewandowski family wrote, “There isn’t a minute that goes by where we haven’t thought of Brian. To try and put into words what the loss of Brian means to our family would bankrupt the languages of the world. The pain, at times, is unbearable … We want everyone to know that the only reason we are in this room is because of you, the defendant, and the decisions you made that day. You have shattered families and caused each of us pain and suffering beyond description. We wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone — not even you.”
Rose Chadwick said she knew Lockhart through a local car club, which required members to sign a contract vowing not to race. She said she hoped upon seeing the news about the deadly crash that it wouldn’t be anyone from the club, but realized later that it was. She told the judge that she has formed a company called Save It 4 The Track to try to get others to understand the dangers of street racing.
Lockhart was arrested early that morning by the California Highway Patrol and has remained in jail since then.
He was initially charged with murder, but those counts were dismissed under a plea agreement in which the vehicular manslaughter charges were added, the prosecutor said.
The deputy district attorney noted that Lockhart had no prior criminal record and that “who Dealio Lockhart is” was a considerable factor in moving forward with the plea agreement.
“It’s not your ordinary criminal, frankly,” Blake told reporters outside court.
Authorities are still searching for the second motorist who was involved in the street race, the prosecutor said.