Jason Dalton Michigan Uber driver pleads guilty to killing 6 strangers.
The man accused of killing six people and critically injuring two in a shooting spree across Kalamazoo County in February 2016 has pleaded guilty to all counts against him.
Jason Dalton, 48, pleaded guilty Monday, Jan. 7, to six counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and several felony firearms charges for the Feb. 20, 2016, shooting rampage. Dalton pleaded guilty just before the prosecutor and defense attorney were supposed to start voir dire, the process of questioning 112 potential jurors for the case. Jury selection started in a closed courtroom Thursday, Jan. 3.
Dalton entered the pleas in a low voice in a silent courtroom packed with about 50 family members and friends of the victims, including survivor Tiana Carruthers.
There was no sentencing agreement tied to Dalton’s guilty pleas, according to Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Jeff Williams. Dalton faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for each of the first-degree murder convictions.
Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Judge Alexander C. Lipsey denied bond. Dalton is scheduled for sentencing on the convictions Feb. 5.
Defense attorney Eusebio Solis said discussions of pleading guilty in the case have been taking place for months. Solis withdrew an earlier motion to pursue an insanity defense, explaining an independent forensic examination showed Dalton did not meet the legal requirements for insanity.
Solis said he spent more than an hour over the weekend talking with Dalton about the decision.
“He is doing that against my advice, your honor,” Solis said. “But, in speaking to Mr. Dalton, there are reasons for that. There are personal reasons, for him. He does not want to put his family through that, or the victims’ families, through the trial. It’s his decision; against my advice.”
Standing next to his attorney at the judge’s bench, Dalton told Lipsey his pleas were being offered voluntarily.
“Yes. I’ve wanted this for quite a while,” he said.
Solis acknowledged, given the charges Dalton was facing, that a guilty plea at this stage was rather unusual.
“I’ve been practicing law for 30 years and have never pleaded to life in prison without parole,” Solis said after the hearing.
The case had been on hold for nearly three years as it wound its way through appellate courts.
In an interview with detectives, Dalton said the Uber app “literally took over his mind and body” on Feb. 20 when the color of the app’s symbol changed from red to black. Dalton told the detectives the app symbol changed colors when he spoke the name of the Eastern Star symbol.
Dalton’s trial has been delayed as his defense attorneys argued detectives violated his Miranda rights in interviews the day after the shooting. Ultimately, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided the interviews will not be allowed at trial.
Dalton shot Tiana Carruthers, 25, in the parking lot of the Meadows town home complex, 5066 Meadows Blvd,, just before 6 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2016. Dalton shot and killed father and son Rich, 53, and Tyler Smith, 17, in the parking lot of Seelye Kia on Stadium Drive just after 10 p.m. that same evening. He then shot four women and a 14-year-old girl in the parking lot of Cracker Barrel, 5581 S. 9th St. in Texas Township.
Mary Lou Nye, 62, of Baroda; Mary Jo Nye, 60, Dorothy “Judy” Brown, 74, and Barbara Hawthorne, 68, all of Battle Creek, were killed and the 14-year-old girl, Abigail Kopf, survived but was critically injured.
Dalton drove erratically that afternoon, picking up Uber fares between the shootings.