by Heather Tomlinson
A Pulaski County man who pleaded guilty to charges connected with a fatal March accident was handed a recommended 18-year sentence — but not before the court heard from him and the victim’s mother.
“I’ll never have my son back,” said Teresa Stephens-Davis as she addressed the court on Thursday. “He’s my only child. I’ll never have grandchildren. He’ll never get married.
“ ... I just hope he (Justin Litton) has time to think this over,” Stephens-Davis added.
Stephens-Davis is the mother of Levi Stephens, 33, who was killed in a March 18 car crash on West Ky. 80.
Litton, 36, appeared Thursday before Pulaski Circuit Judge Jeffrey T. Burdette for a sentencing hearing. Litton in August pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of first-degree wanton endangerment, and one count of first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the accident.
Litton was arrested on March 18 and initially charged with murder after police say he intentionally drove into the path of Stephens’ vehicle.
Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Molen, watching for Litton’s vehicle that night after his family reported he’d expressed suicidal thoughts and left a residence intoxicated, captured the accident via dashboard camera. Litton’s vehicle appeared to cross the center line on West Ky. 80, entering into the opposite lane for several seconds and into the path of Stephens’’ vehicle.
Litton during Thursday’s hearing addressed the court and Stephens’ family, who held posters with Stephens’ pictures as they listened to the proceedings.
“I know there’s a lot of people who hate me here, and that breaks my heart,” said Litton. “ ... I never intended to take someone else’s life. Why he’s gone and I can still live my life, I don’t know ... I think about it every day.
“I’m so sorry for taking his life,” Litton added.
Litton also hinted at his own family’s recent heartbreaking loss. Litton, in reading his statement to the court, said he lost his brother several years ago. Litton’s older brother, Jeremiah Litton, was shot and killed in Sept. 2011 during an altercation at a home off Monticello Street.
The man charged in Jeremiah Litton’s death, Matthew Danny Patterson, saw his case dismissed by a grand jury. Patterson had maintained he acted in self-defense during the incident.
“I lost my brother to a shooting ... I know what it’s like to lose a loved one,” Litton read during Thursday’s hearing. “I don’t think I can forgive the man who shot him , but I hope one day I can ...
“I hope one day Levi’s family can forgive me,” Litton added. “I am truly sorry for what I have done.”
Burdette accepted Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery’s recommendation of 10 years for the manslaughter charge, five years for the wanton endangerment charge, and three years for the criminal mischief charge, all to run consecutively for an 18-year sentence.
“These kinds of things change people,” Burdette said, noting that he hoped Litton could serve his time, learn from it, and use his experiences to teach others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Montgomery said he felt Litton’s comments were genuine.
“I’m glad (Litton) talked,” said Montgomery. “I think it was sincere, I think it was good for the family to hear that.
“It’s just a tragedy all around,” Montgomery added.