Driver who killed EMU student in chase gets 15-30 years

Alyssa Verbeke is escorted into the courtroom for her sentencing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Nathaniel Crawford told the woman who killed his teenage daughter in a crash while fleeing police that he wished she could be given the death penalty.

Instead, Alyssa Marie Verbeke of Otter Lake was sentenced Friday to 15-30 years in prison for causing the Aug. 5 crash that killed 19-year-old Detroit resident Daziah Tanae Crawford, a student at Eastern Michigan University.

Nathaniel Crawford said he wished Michigan was a death penalty state but since it's not, Verbeke should be "put in a place with no windows and no doors where there is total darkness, where nothing can get in and nothing can get out because those are how my days are and how I feel as a result of her action."

Crawford's parents and other family members filled the courtroom on the 8th floor of Frank Murphy Hall of Justice to hear Verbeke's sentencing for second-degree murder by Judge Catherine Heise.

She pleaded no contest to that charge last month, and in exchange, the remaining charges against her were dismissed: first-degree fleeing police, reckless driving causing death, operating on a suspended, revoked or denied license causing death, and possessing less than 25 grams of narcotics or cocaine.

Verbeke, a former Warren resident, was fleeing from Warren police when she crashed the vehicle she was driving into a 1998 Nissan driven by Crawford at the intersection of Fairport and Lappin on Detroit's east side.

 Daziah Crawford, 19, was a student at Eastern Michigan University.

The incident occurred around 6 p.m. as Crawford and her younger brother, who was injured, were returning from Sunday church services at Apostolic Renovation Ministries in Detroit.

After the crash, Verbeke ran from the scene.

Crawford's mother, Natavia Crawford, told the courtroom about her daughter's drive, talent and goal of becoming a journalist — and her pain at losing her child.

"Her pen was magical ... her voice amazing," Natavia Crawford said. "This hurt that I feel is indescribable. My heart is shattered and only God can mend it. If I were to based the amount of years Ms. Verbeke (should serve) based off of my feeling, she would never see the light of day, so I must put my trust in the Lord and the court.

"The streets will be a much safer place without a person like Alyssa Verbeke behind the wheel," Natavia Crawford said, adding that she prays that Verbeke seeks mental health assistance for overcoming her addiction and establishes "a newfound relationship with God."

She concluded, telling the defendant, who stood a few feet away, "Today, Alyssa Verbeke, I forgive you." 

Natavia Crawford, left, and Nathaniel Crawford, mother and father of Daziah Crawford, keep their emotions in check as they read victim impact statements before Alyssa Verbeke's sentencing.

Nathaniel Crawford spoke of his daughter's experiences as a member of performance groups like Mosaic and I Am Song and her dream of writing for the New York Times. He spoke of never seeing his daughter graduate from college, being married or becoming a mother.

"As a father, I am left to ponder the life that was ahead of my daughter," he said. "I think of walking her down the aisle to give her to the man that God has chosen to be her husband ... I think of being with her and her husband when they are inspecting their first house. But none of this will ever happen because Alyssa Verbeke's recklessness and taste for drugs led to killing my daughter and almost killing my son as well."

Verbeke apologized to the Crawford family "for taking away their loved one."

"I know my apology won't bring her back," she said.

Reading from a letter, Verbeke said she's had time to reflect on her actions that day and "realize it's not worth the lives that I've destroyed."

She added: "I hope and pray that someday they will find it in their hearts to forgive me as I try to forgive myself for the devastation I've caused."

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