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Utah man gets prison for causing fatal Christmas Eve crash

Published September 26, 2013 9:08 pm

Courts • Thomas Ainsworth apologizes to family for hitting their car while high.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When Thomas Randall Ainsworth crashed his car into the Pack family, shattering bones and killing an 18-month-old boy, his own tiny granddaughter lost something she will never get back: Getting to know her grandfather outside of prison walls.

Ainsworth, 56, was sentenced Thursday to spend up to 45 years in prison for being high on drugs when he caused the crash that killed Colum Pack and sent the baby's parents and 3-year-old brother to the hospital.

It was the maximum possible sentence for Ainsworth's crimes. And Ainsworth's family fears it will keep him behind bars for the rest of his natural life.

"I feel for that family, and I can't imagine what they must have gone through, losing their baby," said the defendant's daughter, Sierra Ainsworth, 28, who cradled her 1-year-old child in her arms as she spoke. "But it was an accident. He didn't tear their lives apart on purpose. ... It just hurts me that now he'll never get to know his own grandchildren. That we're losing him, too. Maybe for the rest of his life."

But Ainsworth, who apologized to the Pack family in court Thursday, said he wanted to take responsibility for what he did. He couldn't bear the thought that he had killed a child.

"This whole thing has left a big scar on my heart," said Ainsworth, wiping tears from his eyes as he hunched over in a wheel chair. "I didn't mean to take their little one from them. I wish every day that I could trade places with that little boy."

Ainsworth suffered a shattered back, broken bones and a number of other injuries in the crash. He hasn't been able to walk or receive the therapy he's needed since he was put in jail, his family said.

Ainsworth pleaded guilty in July to three counts of negligent driving that caused injury or death — second degree felonies that each carry a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

In exchange for his admission of guilt, prosecutors dropped two misdemeanor charges of crossing a highway divider and driving without insurance.

"The circumstances and gravity of this offense — there are few greater," said 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas, who ordered Ainsworth to serve up to 15 years at the Utah State Prison on each of the felonies, which will run consecutively.

According to prosecutors, Ainsworth was driving his Chevrolet Suburban west on 9000 South on Dec. 24, 2011, while high on methamphetamine and THC. He dropped his cellphone, went to reach for it and lost control of his vehicle.

The Suburban jumped the center median near 1000 West and clipped an oncoming Nissan Altima. Seconds later, the SUV hit an oncoming Subaru Outback head-on, killing Colum Pack and severely injuring his 3-year-old brother, Finn, and their parents, Ryan and Raquel Pack.

"We had to plan our baby's funeral while we were both still in the hospital," Raquel Pack told the judge. "We have lived every parents' worst nightmare ... And no matter how long of a sentence you give, it will not bring back our son."

Both parents still suffer recurring ailments and will continue to receive treatment.

After the hearing, the Pack family said they accepted Ainsworth's apology and hope to find some peace in the wake of their son's death.

"We believe he's sincere," Raquel Pack said. "But we'll always have pain."

The couple, who appeared in court surrounded by friends and family, just gave birth to triplets.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae