KALAMAZOO — The man who fatally shot six people in-between picking up passengers for Uber in 2016 was sentenced Tuesday to six counts of mandatory life in prison with no chance of parole, as family members of victims told the court of the emotional toll the murders have taken.
Jason Dalton, 48, received the mandatory sentence in Kalamazoo County court. He pleaded guilty to all 16 counts against him last month, including six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and eight felony firearm charges.
Dalton admitted shooting eight people in three locations in the Kalamazoo area in February 2016. After his arrest, police quoted Dalton as saying a “devil figure” on Uber’s app was controlling him on the day of the shootings.
Four women were killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant: Barbara Hawthorne, Dorothy “Judy” Brown, Mary Lou Nye and sister-in-law Mary Jo Nye. Rich Smith and his 17-year-old son, Tyler Smith, were fatally shot while looking at a pickup truck in a dealer’s lot.
Abigail Kopf, who was 14 at the time, was shot in the head during the restaurant shooting and survived. Tiana Carruthers was shot and wounded in a residential area.
Two of those victims had ties to Baroda. Mary Lou Nye, 62, lived in Baroda. Her sister-in-law, Mary Jo Nye, grew up in Baroda and lived in Battle Creek. She was 60.
The women had been roommates decades ago at Western Michigan University, The Herald-Palladium reported after the shootings. They became related when Mary Jo Nye’s brother, Christopher Nye, married Mary Lou.
During the sentencing Tuesday, Christopher Nye spoke about his wife and sister.
“I’ve lost the woman I married for 41 years and I lost my little sister,” he said. “The world has lost two women whose only goal in life was to take care of children.”
Before retiring, Mary Jo Nye taught English to students at an alternative high school for at-risk teens.
“She taught children who came from shaky backgrounds. Some of them had juvenile records, some just came from bad family situations and she was their teacher and mentor,” Christopher Nye said.
Mary Lou Nye worked for many years at the Secretary of State’s office before starting to work at Immanuel Early Childhood Development Center in Bridgman.
Bart Nye, the son of Mary Lou Nye, also spoke at the sentencing Tuesday. Mary Lou Nye was a mother of two.
He described her as “a mother whose happiest day was holding her grandson for the first time on his second day of life,” Bart Nye said. “A grandmother who found the perfect job for a grandmother: reading to children and rocking babies to sleep.”
He said Mary Lou Nye could never decide which title to take, but that she did not want to be called “grandma.”
“However, she never got to hear her autistic non-verbal grandson say her name,” he said. “She is the sunlight and the sun is gone.”
Dalton was deemed competent to stand trial and had dropped an insanity defense just before his trial was scheduled to start. He has yet to explain in court why he randomly shot the eight victims.
The father of two had worked as an insurance adjuster and had no criminal record before the shootings.
Prosecutor Jeff Getting said the fact that there is no clear motive behind the shootings “haunts us.”
Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman