Christopher Small, 31, was sentenced to 18 years in the Colorado Department of Corrections last week for driving drunk and high in a crash that killed his 4-year-old son, Lucca. In October, Small pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the one-vehicle crash Feb. 20.
“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,” said Douglas County District Court Judge Shay Whittaker Dec. 19. “What is even more horrifying is that it could have been worse — he was on his way to pick up his daughter.”
District Attorney George Brauchler added: “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,” he said. “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.”
According to the press release from Douglas County, Small was working at his job in Limon on Feb. 20, got off work early and arranged with his ex-wife to pick up his son and daughter from daycare 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.
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.
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.