If their 2-year-old son survives the brain injuries he suffered when a suspected repeat drunken driver rear-ended the Arlington family’s car Friday, the boy will never be able to care for himself. But unless the toddler dies, prosecutors can’t pursue the severe punishment the family believes the driver should face.
"My son was supposed to turn 3 in a month and a half," Abdallah’s mother, Loubna Elharazin, said Tuesday. "I want this man to be in jail for the rest of his life."
Abdallah remained on life support at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on Tuesday. At least 75 percent of the toddler’s brain has been destroyed by bruising and strokes, said Dr. Jeffery McGlothlin, a child neurologist and one of Abdallah’s doctors
"What is left is damaged, and we don’t know how well it will work," McGlothlin said. "His brain injury is so bad, a lot of parents would decide that you’re just prolonging death" by keeping him on life support, he said.
"He could still proceed to brain death," McGlothlin said. The outlook should become clear in the next few days, he said.
Abdallah’s parents, who are Muslim, oppose taking him off life support because of their religious beliefs, said Majed Nachawati, an attorney representing the family in a lawsuit against the driver, Stewart Le Richardson.
Richardson, 44, was in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday on a charge of intoxication assault with serious bodily injury, a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison. His bail was set at $75,000, officials said.
Prosecutors are researching Richardson’s criminal history while they wait to see whether Abdallah will survive, said Richard Alpert, the Tarrant County prosecutor assigned to the case.
"We would like to hope for the very best for the child, but we are prepared to go to the next level if the child dies," Alpert said.
If that happens, Richardson would face a charge of intoxication manslaughter, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors would also consider pursuing a felony murder charge, which is punishable by 99 years to life in prison, if they can prove Richardson had two convictions for driving while intoxicated and was drunk when the crash occurred Friday.
A third DWI is a felony, Alpert said, and under Texas law, people can be convicted of murder if they "commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes an individual’s death" while committing another felony.
Investigators are trying to find all the places Richardson has lived so they can check with local authorities to compile a comprehensive criminal history, Alpert said.
When he was arrested Friday, Richardson had a valid Minnesota driver’s license and told police that he lives in Davenport, Iowa, according to the Arlington Police Department’s accident report.
Some details of his driving history remained unclear Tuesday.
In 1994, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, reported that Richardson was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after a wreck that injured five people in Johnson County, Iowa, but it’s unclear how the case was resolved.
In 1998, he was convicted in Scott County, Iowa, of operating a vehicle while intoxicated/second offense and sentenced to 240 days in jail, all but seven of which were suspended, according to Iowa court records online.
In that case, his driver’s license was suspended for six years, but in 2002, a judge allowed him to drive to work on the condition that he have an interlock device, which prevents a vehicle from being started if the driver is intoxicated.
In August 2007, Richardson pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving charge in Minnesota, according to court records.
The night of the crash, the Khaders were visiting with several dozen family members, said Abdallah’s uncle, Monte Khader, 38. The Khaders recently moved to Arlington from the Chicago area, and another sibling and her family had just emigrated from the Middle East, he said.
"It was like our headquarters," Monte Khader said of his brother’s home.
Toward the end of the night, Abdallah’s father, Fahad Khader, told his wife that he was tired and wanted to go home. He had to get up at 5 the next morning to work at the Fort Worth IHOP restaurant he manages.
Just after his brother’s family left, Monte Khader’s phone rang.
According to the police report, the Khaders were stopped at a red light at South Cooper Street and Oak Village Road in their Honda Accord about 10:45 p.m. Richardson, driving a Ford F-250 pickup, failed to stop for the light, rear-ending the Accord and pushing it into the intersection, where it collided with another vehicle, the report states.
When Monte Khader arrived at the crash scene, Abdallah’s 17-year-old brother, Ghazi Khader, was on his knees, crying for his uncle to help the child.
"I said it’s OK, he’s breathing," Monte Khader said.
Abdallah’s mother was yelling "I’m losing my son, please help him," he said.
Richardson was not injured, according to the report.
"I said to him, 'You didn’t even hit your brakes,’ " Monte Khader said. "There’s no skid marks."
Before police separated them, Richardson gave Monte Khader a one-word reply.
"He just said, 'Sorry,’ " he said. "Emotionless."
A fund to help pay for Abdallah Khader’s medical bills has been established at Bank of America. Donations can be made at any branch in the boy’s name.