Man who killed girl in crash: ‘I wish it was me’

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — At a sentencing hearing filled with tears and emotion, 49-year-old Charles Cahill Jr. apologized Tuesday and asked to be held accountable for killing a 12-year-old girl during a drunken driving wreck last year.

Charita Russell, left, and Florence Square, aunts to victim Victoria Mack, are emotional during the sentencing.

Cahill was sentenced to 27-50 years in prison for causing the death of Victoria Mack, a Romulus youngster who was returning home from a day at the beach when Cahill slammed into her family’s van at 89 miles per hour. The prosecutor said he braked just two seconds before the crash.

Cahill of Sumpter Township, who pleaded guilty in November to second-degree murder for drunken driving, causing the wreck that killed Victoria on July 27, was sentenced by Wayne Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow.

In what was called a “rare” request, Cahill asked the judge to hold him responsible for his crime.

Charles Cahill Sr. was sentenced to 27 to 50 years  in prison by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow for second-degree murder.

“This is rare for someone to come in here and say, ‘I need to be held responsible for what I did,’ ” Morrow said before sentencing the defendant, who stood in front of him crying. “Mr. Cahill ... has asked us to hold him responsible for the sadness he has caused ... for the heartbreak he has caused.”

Victoria’s mother, Darlena Savage, spoke to Cahill before his apology.

“I don’t forgive you,” Savage told Cahill while crying. “You took from me a very important part of my life. Because of your recklessness, my daughter is gone. You had plenty of opportunities to change your life, but you didn’t, and my daughter had to pay the price. I had to watch my daughter fight for her life. ... You sat on the side of the road without a care in the world. I want to see her. I want to see her pretty smile, but I can’t.”

Savage said she never thought the day at the beach would be the last time she would “have a conversation with my child.”

The girl’s family members filled the first two rows of the courtroom while Cahill’s relatives remained in the back. They cried as they heard the details that led to the wreck and the injuries that led to her death three days later.

Cahill addressed the court.

“I am responsible for her death,” he said. “I wish it was me. I wish I could change that moment. I used poor judgment that day. There’s no excuse for what I did to the Mack family.”

Authorities said Cahill had a high blood-alcohol level when his vehicle plowed into the van Victoria was traveling in with family members. In addition to second-degree murder, he was charged with operating with high blood alcohol causing death; operating with a suspended license causing death; operating under the influence of liquor, third offense; and open intoxicants in a vehicle.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Reynolds asked the judge to put Cahill away for at least 50 years.

The prosecutor also said Cahill is a habitual offender and had not had a driver’s license in 30 years.

Reynolds spoke about how the impact of the crash caused head and spinal injuries to the girl.

Michigan Secretary of State records show Cahill has faced 12 driving-while-intoxicated charges. Police say Cahill was speeding in a 55-mph zone when his vehicle rear-ended the van at a stop sign. The crash occurred at Martinsville and Willis roads in Sumpter Township. Four others in the vehicle were injured.

According to the Michigan Department of State, Cahill’s lengthy driving violations date to 1986 and continued through May. His driving record includes multiple instances of driving with a suspended license, disobeying traffic signals and seven accidents. According to his driving record, two accidents were listed on June 27, 1996 — one in Westland with no injuries, another in Livonia with one person injured.

Cahill’s driver’s license was taken away in 1990, according to the Secretary of State. His past drunken-driving offenses have landed him in court and prison. He was sent to prison in late 1997 for two counts of OUIL third offense and an OUIL third habitual in early 1998. He received 30 months to five years on that conviction. He received 300 days of jail credit as part of his sentence.

In 2008, Cahill returned to prison on a new drunken driving conviction, two counts of OUIL third offense on a three- to five-year sentence. He was paroled March 2011 on a two-year term and discharged from parole in 2012.

Cahill’s attorney, Kimberly Michon, who asked for a 15- to 30-year prison sentence at his hearing Tuesday, said her client “has demons that so many of us will never face.”

At the emotional sentencing, family members cried as Reynolds chastised Cahill for his actions that day.

“There’s not going to be anymore days at the beach with her daughter,” Reynolds said of Savage. “There’s always going to be an empty chair at the dinner table as a reminder that her daughter is gone forever because of Mr. Cahill. Twelve prior drunk driving convictions, including five felonies. A couple stints in prison. Several prior collisions driving drunk. That should have been a clear message to Mr. Cahill that nothing good comes to him if he decides to mix alcohol and automobiles.”

The girl’s father, GarryMack, told Cahill that he “changed my life forever” and that “I have to go to grief counseling just to learn how to manage my pain.”

But Victoria’s grandmother, Pamela Butts Durley, told Cahill she forgave him.

“I’m not angry. I know in my heart you didn’t (choose) to kill my grandbaby. I know that in my heart you have a problem,” Durley said. “I hope you get to know God the way I have gotten to know God. God doesn’t want to me carry around hate and anger. I don’t hate you, and I’m not angry at you, and I forgive you. I forgive you from the bottom of my heart.”

Cahill cried as Durley spoke.

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