A Colorado Springs man was sentenced to 18 years in prison for driving drunk and high in a crash that killed his 4-year-old son.
Christopher Small, 31, pleaded guilty Oct. 9 to vehicular homicide DUI in the Feb. 20 one-vehicle crash that killed his son, Lucca.
Douglas County District Court Judge Shay Whittaker on Dec. 19 sentenced Small to 18 years in the Department of Corrections after hearing from Lucca’s mother and her family. The plea agreement called for a sentencing range of 12-20 years.
“To this court, what is most devastating is … he made a decision to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car and consciously made a decision to alter previously set plans and go and pick up his children,” Whittaker said. “What is even more horrifying is that it could have been worse – he was on his way to pick up” his daughter.
“There are no words to capture the magnitude of this loss. A father’s selfish and reckless decision leads to the death of his innocent 4-year-old son,” said District Attorney George Brauchler. “Coloradans should know that he will be eligible to be paroled from prison in only 5-6 years, but he will likely never be paroled from the knowledge that he killed his sweet boy. Like Lucca’s death, those nightmares are forever.”
Small was working at his job in Limon on Feb. 20, 2018. He go off work early and arranged with his ex-wife to pick up his son and daughter from day care and school in Woodland Park.
Small later told investigators he had two shots of Fireball whisky in Limon. Evidence indicates he was drinking after that, as well.
He picked up Lucca in his 2012 Lexus RX350. For some reason he was on Colorado 67 in Douglas County when he lost control on a curve. Lucca, who was in a booster seat in the back, was killed.
Evidence indicated Small was driving 75 mph on the road with a 50 mph speed limit. The road was dry, and conditions were sunny just before 3:00 p.m. There was no indication that Small ever touched his brakes before the car went off the road.
A blood-alcohol test four hours after the crash came back at 0.098. A lab would have testified that Small was at minimum 0.19 at the time of the crash. The tests also showed 3.5 nanograms of THC.
“My baby did not die: He was killed,” Lucca’s mother, Ashley Whittemore, told the court in a victim impact statement during sentencing. Lucca “laid in the snow with a broken neck, a swollen brain and a stopped heart.”
Whittemore’s father, Mike Whittemore, spoke.
“This was not a tragic accident. This was reckless, narcissistic behavior,” he told the judge. “Lucca didn’t die in a horrible accident – he died at the hands of his father.
His wife, Lucca’s grandmother, Michelle Whittemore, echoed those thoughts.
Small’s “path of recklessness and carelessness led to the death of my grandson,” she said.
Deputy District Attorney Dan Warhola asked the judge for the maximum sentence. He noted that Small was arrested on a DUI charge in November while he was out on bond.
“A father is a provider and a protector. This defendant was the exact opposite of that on Feb. 20,” Warhola said in his sentencing argument. “Killing his own son wasn’t enough to stop him.”
Small’s prison sentence will be followed by five years of mandatory parole.