SALT LAKE CITY — The atmosphere in the courtroom Thursday was one of profound grief and loss.
Thomas Randall Ainsworth, 56, apologized to the family of a baby who died when his Suburban crashed into their vehicle head-on, on Christmas Eve 2011.
"I wish I could trade places with him, but I can't," Ainsworth told the 3rd District Court in tears, while sitting in a wheelchair with injuries he sustained in the accident.
He accepted responsibility for what he had done and said the incident left a "scar on my heart."
Ainsworth, who has an extensive criminal history, was ordered to serve three one- to 15-year sentences in prison for three charges of operating a vehicle negligently causing injury or death, a second-degree felony. Judge Deno Himonas ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.
"I have considered the nature, circumstances and gravity of the offense," Himonas told Ainsworth, adding that few crimes are greater than taking a young life.
Ainsworth was reaching for his cellphone when he lost control of his car and caused the crash. He later tested positive for methamphetamines and THC.
Christmas 2011 was going to be the Pack family's best so far.
"I don't remember ever being this excited for Christmas before," Kelly Pack told the judge before the sentencing.
Kelly and Ryan Pack had just left a family party on Christmas Eve and were excited to return home to begin their own traditions with their two sons, ages 18 months and 3 years. They had juggled bills to pay for presents for their boys.
Things took a turn for the worse as they drove back to their American Fork home.
On Dec. 24, 2011, near 9000 South and 700 West, Ainsworth was driving a Suburban that crossed the median and struck the Pack family's vehicle head-on, killing 18-month-old Colum and seriously injuring the boy's parents. Three-year-old Finn suffered minor injuries.
The Packs planned their baby's funeral while still hospitalized in critical condition.
"We have to live the rest of our lives with broken hearts," she said Thursday. "We have lived every parent's worst nightmare."
The couple underwent several surgeries and they both still suffer from injuries as a result of the accident, to say nothing of the financial burden of paying for the costs because Ainsworth was not insured at the time of the accident.
The Packs said they were relieved to have the criminal case behind them, and will always try to keep Colum in their memories.
"We talk about him daily," his mother said.
They said they have committed to live as survivors instead of victims. This past year they held a 5K race in memory of their son, and donated the proceeds to a family in need. The Packs — who welcomed triplets to their family on Sept. 15 — plan to continue this tradition.
After the sentence was pronounced, Ainsworth's daughter Amy yelled, "I love you, Dad," before running out of the courtroom.
"I feel for that family," daughter Sierra Ainsworth, 28, said after the hearing, with tears rolling down her cheeks.3 comments on this story
"Losing her would kill me," she said, referring to her 1-year-old daughter, Gentry Hatch, whom she was holding in her arms.
The Packs lost a son, she said, and now she has lost her father. She takes her daughter to visit her grandfather once a month. He has never held her, she said, and now he never will.
Judy Rhees said she never expected her son to receive a sentence of up to 45 years behind bars.
"I can't imagine losing a child, but this is going to be hell," she said.