DETROIT - One after another, family members of Steve Utash on Monday addressed the man convicted in his beating, all sharing the same question: Why?
Utash,a tree trimmer from Macomb County, struck a 10-year-old boy who had darted in front of his truck on April 2. When he got out to check on the child, he was severely beaten by a mob of onlookers.
Utash spent more than a week in a medically induced coma after the mob-style attack. Witnesses have said up to a dozen people were involved, but only five have been charged. One of the attackers, Wonzey Saffold, pleaded guilty to assault in exchange for having an attempted murder charge dropped.
At his sentencing, Saffold apologized to the Utash family for their pain and suffering.
Judge James Callahan ordered him to spend six years and four months to 10 years in prison.
Callahan told Saffold his actions had “caused a tremendous upheaval in the city.”
Ahead of Saffold’s sentencing, Utash’s daughter, Mandi, read aloud a letter she said her father had written.
“There was nothing I could do, he basically ran into the side of my truck,” Utash wrote. “I got out as quickly as I could and I ran to where the kid was laying.”
Utash said he was trying to call 911 when, “Teenagers started throwing punches at me and screaming that I hit the kid on purpose.”
Utash also recounted waking up in the hospital and realizing the severity of his injuries.
“I had bruises all over my body. A doctor showed me my CAT scan of my brain injury. He showed me all the disconnects my brain has experienced.”
Utash said he cannot drive or work, and is going to therapy twice a week.
“It’s been real scary for me. All I can say is the people who beat me tried to kill me,” he said.
Utash’s brother, Ken, also addressed the court. Pointing directly at Saffold, Ken Utash said, “My brother saw this guy come after him. The next thing he knows, my brother got hit in the head and he was down.”
Ken Utash said his brother was defenseless.
“Only one person stepped up, and that was Deborah Hughes. These defendants should be thanking Deborah Hughes today, because right now you would be standing here for murder. My brother would be dead,” Ken Utash said. “They have shown no respect for life.”
When Mary Utash, Steve Utash's sister-in-law, addressed Saffold she questioned what his excuse was for being violent.
"It's evident that there's no consideration for human life. You disgust me and you're a disgrace to America," she said. But she also urged him to take accountability.
"It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are to do the right thing," she said.