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Chesterfield mother reacts to ‘devastating’ prison sentence

Posted at 7:03 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 19:08:48-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A Petersburg man was sentenced to prison time for eluding police during a high-speed chase, which ended with the death of a 5-year-old girl.

On Wednesday, Sussex County Circuit Court Judge Carson Saunders Jr. sentenced Toriando Smith, 31, to six years in prison for his role in the Spring Break 2019 crash.

Smith sped off from a Virginia State Police trooper in Dinwiddie County and onto the backroads of Sussex County before he crashed head-on into a vehicle carrying three people.

One of the passengers, 5-year-old Christina Parham, died after impact. Her two cousins survived with serious injuries.

“It was bad enough it was dragged on and we had to sit there and tell how it impacted our life, but it was an impact to injury that they only gave him 6 years,” said Parham’s mother, Chaundreka Williams.

In January, Smith had plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and eluding police, but the pandemic prolonged his sentencing. A driving on a revoked license charge was subsequently dropped.

Sussex County Commonwealth’s Attorney Vincent Robertson Sr. told CBS 6 that he had fought for the maximum sentence allowed under the statute for both crimes which is a combined 15 years.

Robertson said the judge gave Smith 10 years and suspended five years for the involuntary manslaughter charge. He received five years and four years suspended for eluding police.

According to Virginia statute, involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum of 10 years in prison while eluding police includes a five-year maximum sentence.

Robertson said Judge Saunders gave Smith two years more than the state’s recommended sentence for involuntary manslaughter, which is three years in prison.

“I’ve seen drug offenders get more time than that,” Williams stated. “I really think the lawmakers in Virginia need to reconsider some of these manslaughter charges, amend some of them, so other families will not feel how I feel.”

Judge Saunders declined an interview on Thursday.

The Sussex County Sheriff’s Office said Smith will begin his prison sentence in their jail until the state resumes moving inmates between facilities.

“I know if I go out here and drive 120 miles per hour, if I hit somebody, I already know somebody could die,” said Parham’s grandmother, Gloria Farmer.

Christina aspired to be a doctor to help others.

"She was in kindergarten at the time," Williams stated. "She didn’t deserve this. She was just on Spring Break wanting to enjoy herself."

Williams has also worked with State Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Petersburg) to enact Christina’s Alert, which would notify the public in the event of a high-speed police chase in the area.

Morrissey introduced the legislation in January and was continued to the Judiciary Committee in 2021.