Darrell Brooks, the man convicted of murdering six people and injuring dozens more at a Christmas parade in Wisconsin last year, was sentenced Wednesday to six consecutive life terms with no possibility of early release.
A jury convicted Brooks, 40, in October on all 76 counts against him following the fatal crash in Waukesha, west of Milwaukee, on Nov. 21, 2021. Six of the counts were manslaughter first degree.
The victims killed ranged in age from 8 to 81 years old. More than 60 people were injured.
Judge Jennifer Dorow emotional during sentencing, saying images of the crash “kept me up at night” and repeatedly described the events as “horrible.” She noted that the only time “we heard about the brake lights was when Jane Kulich was in that vehicle, and he hit the brakes so he could pull her off the roof and run her over.”
Dorow said Brooks displayed a “complete and utter lack of remorse,” barely apologizing and sometimes teasing victims with hand gestures or eye rolls.
Sentencing began on Tuesday, as victims and family members spoke about the trauma they experienced and how they continue to suffer.
The youngest person who died, 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, was shot with his older brother as they walked in the parade with their baseball teammates, his mother said. Both boys were hospitalized and Jackson died two days later.
“Do you have any idea how heartbreaking it is having to explain to your 12-year-old that his little brother isn’t going to make it?” Sheri Sparks told Brooks in court on Tuesday. You said life will never be the same.
“I miss Jackson every second of every single day,” she said. “I feel gutted and broken. Sometimes it hurts to breathe. It hurts to live without him here.
Others said they were left with long-lasting trauma. Jessica Gonzalez said she has suffered from panic attacks from any loud noise. She only made it back to work last month.
“After nearly a year, some days still feel like yesterday, November 21,” Gonzalez said.
Brooks apologized Wednesday after people spoke up on his behalf.
“I want every single victim in this accident, family members, those who have lost loved ones, those who are still recovering… I want everyone to know that not only am I sorry for what happened, I am sorry that you may you not see what is really in my heart, may you not see the remorse I have,” he told the court. “That you couldn’t hear all the prayers I said in my cell, that you couldn’t see all the tears I shed.”
He went on to say that what happened at the Christmas parade “wasn’t an attack.”
Brooks attended the annual parade despite warnings from police to stop, including from an officer wearing an orange safety vest that read “police” who banged on the hood of the SUV, according to a criminal complaint.
Police said they were called about a previous domestic disturbance involving Brooks and an ex-girlfriend. They said he fled that scene and went to the parade.
Brooks represented himself at trial. The trial was marked by interruptions, even when Brooks was removed after arguing with the judge.
A Waukesha County jury on October 26 convicted Brooks of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, 61 counts of reckless endangerment, six counts of hit and run causing death, two counts of counts for skipping bail and one count for misdemeanor battery.
The first-degree manslaughter charge carries a mandatory life sentence.
In court Tuesday, Waukesha County District Attorney Susan Opper called it “a seizure” and said Brooks hit people that day, then continued on and hit other people. You said the sentences should be served one after the other, for each count.
“He’s lost his right to be in our community, period,” Opper told Judge Jennifer Dorow. “There is not one thing that mitigates this sentence, not one. He deserves the absolute maximum sentence, for all intents and purposes, consecutive.
Wisconsin abolished the death penalty in 1853.