The pain of losing her husband in a car crash last year hits Ankquinet Lashay Whittaker at unexpected times: When she checks off herself as single instead of married on documents, when she lists herself as a family of three instead of four and when she's driving her two daughters to school, afraid they'll end up in a car wreck, too.
Whittaker's husband, Lashay Whittaker, 41, was driving home April 20 when Shawn M. Konder barreled down an alley at 80 mph, broadsiding the vehicle Whittaker was driving with enough force to shear it in half and cause a nearby garage to collapse.
"I always thought we would grow old together," Whittaker told the court Wednesday before Konder was sentenced. "At times I can't sleep, focus or concentrate, because I'm thinking of him."
Konder, 27, of St. Paul, was sentenced in Ramsey County District Court to 15 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in November to causing death while fleeing police. As part of the plea deal, attorneys agreed on the prison term, and charges of third-degree murder, criminal vehicular murder, assault and terroristic threats were dropped.
Whittaker's family members and friends packed the courtroom for Konder's sentencing. Many of the dozens in attendance told the court that Whittaker, who lived in Mounds View, was a "hands-on" father of his daughters, 8 and 14 at the time, had an infectious laugh and was a beloved member of the community.
Whittaker worked as a barber for several years at the Grooming House on Selby Avenue, and served as customers' confidant, therapist and friend, said his cousin, Troy McCoy.
"The world is worse off without him in it," said Whittaker's mother, Marlene Whittaker. "I miss my son's smile and sense of humor."
According to court documents: Konder was supposed to be watching his 2-year-old son and the child's 14-year-old brother at the mother's home the night of the crash. The teenager told police that Konder left several times and returned drunk. The two fought, and Konder later threatened the teenager with an 18-inch machete and said he would shoot the boys' mother.
Police were called to the scene. Konder sped away with his headlights turned off and slammed into Whittaker's car in the 800 block of Sherburne Avenue.
Konder tried to flee on foot, but fell and was arrested. The charges against him said that while he was being transported to Regions Hospital for a cracked sternum and broken clavicle and while at the hospital, he laughed and said, "It was a fun game … it was a game of cats [sic] and mouse … I lost."
Konder's attorney, Gregory Egan, told the court that his client was remorseful.
"Despite what he's done, he's an insightful, compassionate, gentle man," Egan said.
Given an opportunity to speak, Konder said no words could express his feelings.
"I will accept full responsibility for what I have done," he said. "I do feel deep remorse …"
Ramsey County District Court Judge Judith Tilsen told Konder he didn't express any remorse in the pre-sentence investigation conducted before Wednesday, but appeared "somewhat" remorseful at sentencing.
"Mr. Konder, your actions, fueled by rage and alcohol, indeed [were] senseless," Tilsen said. "It was avoidable."