HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — The fiancée of rookie Henrico police officer Trey Sutton who was killed in a crash last year addressed the teen driver who killed him while in court for his trial Tuesday morning.
Zoe Pierson and Sutton were engaged to be married just three months after the fatal crash that took his life on March 30, 2022. Sutton had just graduated from the police academy a month before the crash.
Jeffrey Adam Lankford of Hanover, who was 18 at the time of the crash, was sentenced to two years with one year and 10 months suspended for involuntary manslaughter. The two months of his sentence will be served on house arrest and not in jail, subject to approval from the sheriff.
He will also have to complete 200 hours of community service and his driver's license will be suspended for a year.
Sutton's family wanted more time served for Lankford, but, according to Henrico County Commonwealth's Attorney Shannon Taylor, they willingly went along with the plea agreement because they wanted a felony on his record and didn’t want to risk a jury finding him guilty of a misdemeanor or less.
The fatal crash happened when Sutton and his training officer, Greg Petrohovich, were transporting a man in custody. Henrico Police said they were hit by a truck, driven by Lankford, at the intersection of Wilkinson Road and Chamberlayne Avenue in Henrico.
During the court proceedings on Tuesday, Pierson read the following victim impact statement to court:
This is Trey’s vow book. Instead of vows, it holds my eulogy to him, and a copy of my vows, which were written in my vow book and buried with him on April 6th, 2022.
Ever since Trey’s death, our families and I have undergone the most gut-wrenching, horrific part of loss- reliving the worst night of our lives. There is no amount of time that can remove the image of Trey battered and broken, against our will and tender hands, unable to be mended and being told that he will die. On the night of March 30th, one of our newfound friends from his academy class called me from on-scene to let me know that your truck had collided with his cruiser. I heard the chaos from the scene as his friend panicked and shared with me where to go. You walked into the hospital for seemingly, a check up, and walked right back out.
Meanwhile, Trey’s brother was picking me up off of the hospital room floor because I was in shock after receiving the worst news I could’ve ever imagined. I want you to know the extent of his injuries, and experience the flashbacks and mental images we live with every day. I want you to know that he suffered severe head trauma- his mother and I spent all night suctioning blood from his nose and mouth. A perfectly healthy, strong body, the love of my life, lay there unable to function because everything at the base of his neck and up was severed.
You will never have to know what it feels like to take a wedding band that was just picked up a week earlier and slide it onto the hand of your fiancé in his casket.
A brief decision from you, the defendant, took away 24 years of love and hard work- a son, a brother, a fiancé and a well-respected friend- and an immeasurable future. He will never be my husband. He will never get to be a father. He will never get to fulfill the career he worked so hard for or grow old with me like we planned. But while the magnitude of our loss is great, knowing he will never get the life he so well deserved is what hurts the most.
There is not a day that goes by that we don’t imagine his voice, miss him on holidays, hear a song that reminds us of him, or that even his animals don’t expect him to walk in the door. Our families will never be the same. No matter what happened in this room today, you (the defendant) still have the opportunity to live a full life with family, a wife, children, grandchildren, and other luxuries that we and Trey will not receive. Our families will always think of that when we look at the empty seat at our dinner tables, the empty frames for photos of a wedding that had to be unraveled 9 weeks before, the emptiness in our hearts for his absence and future.
I will never have my questions answered, but every day I find myself running through the list:
-Why did you run that red light?
-Why did you think your speed on that stretch of road was appropriate and safe?
-Why are you able to walk around every day, unharmed, based on a decision you made, while we pick up the shattered pieces of a reality without Trey?
-Why, why, why?
There is no justice today. Today is still only about you, your future, and your fears. It does nothing for us. It doesn’t bring Trey back, and it gives you very little accountability for what you’ve done. It has been 425 days since we had to explain what happened to everyone we knew, 425 days of living in this nightmare, and 425 days in expectation of today. You might rationalize what happened in your head, make excuses for why and how it happened the way it did. We all traveled to MCV that night and we put no one in harms way in the process. If it had been you hurt that night, Trey, who took his oath to protect and serve, would’ve been the one to show up, no questions asked. He would’ve done his best to make sure you went home that night; and you did not extend to him or anybody else on that road the same courtesy. I hope that everyday when you wake up, those first minutes are spent hearing these words over and over again. I hope that when you’re standing by at the altar on your wedding day, you think about everything you took away. I hope that when your first child is born, you’re overcome with fear about their future and know that every day is fleeting. And when you give them car keys for the first time, I hope you’re taken right back to that moment in that intersection.
Sutton's family also provided a statement, read by their civil attorney Craig Curwood, after the hearing.
14 months ago on this day, we were given the worst news any parent or loved one could get. Our hearts remain broken with the tragic loss of our son, brother, fiancé and friend.
The careless and negligent actions of Jeffery Lankford took our son, Officer Trey Marshall Sutton from us. His selfishness and total disregard of others’ safety on March 30, 2022, took the life of a young man that had found his path in life and had so much to give to those around him.
While we are disappointed with the sentence, we know that no sentence will bring back Trey or ease our suffering. We were hoping for more accountability in the outcome today, but sadly, we could not get that. There is however, some satisfaction in knowing that Jeffery Lankford will be a convicted felon for the rest of his life.
We hope that we can use this tragedy in the near future to improve our local, state and national laws to protect our first responders and their families, sadly not if, but when this happens again.
We would like to thank the following people and organizations:
- all of the first responders that were on scene that night trying to save our son.
- The doctors and nurses at the VCU Medical center for making Trey as comfortable as possible while he was passing.
- Officer Hostetler and the Henrico Police Crash Investigation team for their countless hours of hard work and dedication proving what was known immediately at the scene that night (wreck was caused by Lankford running a red light at very high speed).
- Other members of the Henrico Police Division and State Police for assisting in the investigation
- The Commonwealth Attorney’s office, Michael Huberman, Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney and Eli DeJarnette, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for their hard work building the case against Lankford and keeping us informed of progress.
- Renee Duffy, Victim Service Specialist from the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office for her support and guidance through the last 14 months.
- Our attorney, Craig Curwood of Butler Curwood, PLC for being with us from almost day 1. He has been there to advise and advocate at every turn.
- Captain Lauren Edwards of the Henrico Police Division for all of her hard work to support our family from day one and to this day and beyond.
- Family, friends and co-workers for their continued and unwavering support over the last 14 months.
Family of Officer Trey Sutton
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