Father sentenced for Groton DUI crash that killed daughter
David J. Ali has paid the ultimate price for drunken driving, and will continue paying for years to come.
The 30-year-old, who hails from Griswold but resides now at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, was sentenced Thursday in New London Superior Court to six years in prison for an Oct. 31, 2016 crash in Groton that claimed the life of his four-year-old daughter, Delilah.
His blood alcohol level was .21 percent after the crash, according to Groton Town Police. The legal limit for driving is 0.08 percent.
In addition to his never-ending sorrow over the death of his daughter and his convictions for second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and risk of injury to a minor, Ali is being sued by Kendall Metcalf of North Stonington, the driver of the other car involved in the life-altering collision.
Metcalf, then 20 and driving home from work, was traveling east on Gold Star Highway in a 2001 BMW at 5:15 p.m. Ali, driving west in a Toyota Camry with Delilah and the child’s mother, Cheryl Mackin, attempted to take a left turn onto Packer Road, according to a police report. The BMW struck the Camry and continued eastbound before rolling over.
Ali and his front seat passenger, Mackin, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening. But their daughter Delilah, strapped into her car seat in her Halloween costume, suffered a fatal head injury. The first officer at the scene found her lying face down, with her head in the direction of the left rear passenger seat and the lower half of her body in the exposed trunk of the car.
Metcalf told Superior Court Judge Karyl Carrasquilla at Thursday’s sentencing hearing that her physical injuries were minor, but the psychological impact of seeing the lifeless child at the crash scene left her unable to focus on her studies and suffering from depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. She said she couldn’t drive or be alone for months after the incident and couldn’t return to her job, where she worked with children the same age as Delilah.
“For months I could not be alone, nor sleep alone, because every time I closed my eyes I felt my car flipping down the road, and I saw the innocent little girl flipped over in the back seat,” she said.
Her suffering deepened when she learned that some of Delilah’s relatives blamed her for the crash.
At the sentencing, several members of Ali’s family commented that Metcalf, whom they learned had been a race car driver, should have been able to avoid the wreck. They said they thought Ali was not 100 percent responsible.
Metcalf said in all her years of racing, she’d never raced against drunk drivers.
“She has been the victim of victim-blaming in this case,” said prosecutor Sarah W. Bowman. “The accident reconstruction was clear. The defendant (Ali) was responsible and had a .21 blood alcohol level.”
Metcalf had supported an eight year prison sentence for Ali and said she opposed the six year sentence he received in a plea deal approved by Judge Ernest Green Jr.
Ali, handcuffed and wearing his prison uniform, bowed his head as he stood before the judge with his attorney, Dawn Bradinini. He chose not to speak, but his parents, stepparents and a longtime friend who works as a social worker said that more than anything, Ali needs drug and alcohol treatment.
“He’s a father who loves his child more than anything,” said his mother, Peggy Lufkin. “He’s sentenced for the rest of his life already. He’s never going to be able to come away from this. He needs help. He needs to learn how to cope on the outside, how to cope with life.”
Delilah’s mother, Mackin, chose not to attend the sentencing, but continues to mourn the loss of her daughter and support Ali, according to the family.
Ali had been released on bond following his arrest in January 2017. He was under supervision by the Bail Commissioner’s office and was being considered for a pretrial treatment program, but tested positive for drugs and was returned to prison. Family members say he won’t get the treatment he needs in prison.
Ali will be on probation for five years following his release from prison and will be required to complete any treatment deemed necessary by the Department of Adult Probation for substance abuse and mental health issues. He will be required to comply with any restrictions on his driving priveleges imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Judge Carrasquilla also ordered him to reimburse Metcalf for any out-of-pocket expenses that are not included in the civil lawsuit.