Father who drunkenly crashed on I-94 sentenced after daughter killed looking for help

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A father who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with his daughter's death on I-94 last summer has been sentenced to multiple years in prison. 

Wilburt Thomas, 47, accepted a plea bargain for a minimum of 4 and a half years in prison and up to 15 years in connection with his daughter's death. He would've faced life in prison if the case went to trial.

Police said around 2 a.m. on July 15, 2018 Thomas crashed a van stolen from his employer while he was drunk with his 7-year-old daughter, Desandra, in the vehicle. He reportedly hit a disabled vehicle on I-94 in Romulus.

Concerned for her father, Desandra got out of the car to go look for help. She was hit and killed by another driver, who will not face any charges.

"To describe this as a tragic loss is a huge understatement," Judge Michael Hathaway said Thursday in court at his sentencing, adding that Desandra was a "clever and resourceful young girl."

"She had the presence of mind and ability to survive an accident, and then take measures and steps - because she was alarmed about your well being - to try and get help," he said. "Measures that I don't think are typically within the wheelhouse of most 7-year-olds."

Holding a framed photograph of her daughter, Desandra's mother addressed the judge. 

She said her daughter was a beautiful person that excelled in reading, spelling and math, and that she would help anybody she knew. She even gave a pair of her shoes to a new friend at school, something her mother didn't know about until after her daugher's death. 

"This is just very hard for me, judge," she said. "I love my daughter, as I'm sure that her father loved her as well. So this is just traumatic for all parties involved."

Thomas spoke to the judge as well, saying that he was "very remorseful" for what happened. "I think about my daughter every day."

"[This is] very tragic and really is just one more in the long line of very tragic examples of the bloodbath that very often accompanies drinking and driving," Judge Hathaway said.

Thomas pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter, second-degree child abuse, and operating while intoxicated with an occupant under 16 years of age. He'll serve sentences for the charges concurrently, and will be in jail for at least four and a half years now, with a maximum of 15 years.