On July 31 James Means was found guilty of causing the crash that killed Officer Mike Pickering.
Wednesday we learned what Pickering's widow told the court at Means' sentencing.
Diane Pickering's statement focused mostly on her 10-year-old daughter, who was in the car at the time of the crash but not seriously hurt. It also details the day of the crash.
Pickering said her husband survived 30 years as a police officer, a massive heart attack, but was killed due to Means' careless actions.
Her entire unedited, heartbreaking statement is below:
My name is Diane Pickering. I am the widow of Michael Pickering. My entire world changed and fell apart March 4, 2014. Our 10 year old daughter, Aleece called me from a stranger's cell phone to tell me she and her dad were in a crash. I asked her where she was and she told me at Brown's Farm, by the strawberries. I kept her on the phone and called my mother from a separate phone to tell her to go to the crash site. I asked Aleece where her dad was and she told me he was with the paramedics. She also told me she gave her dad a kiss and told him she loved him before getting out of the truck. She then told me she went back to the truck and got her back pack out of the truck because she was worried about not getting her homework done. I spoke to a paramedic on scene by phone and asked what my husband's Glascow was, working in law enforcement for almost 20 years, I knew the lower the number the greater the injuries and probability of death. The paramedic would not tell me anything. I left work and a co-worker drove me to the hospital.
As we got closer to the hospital I knew my husband was dead. No one would talk to me except to tell me to get to the hospital. Working in law enforcement for 20 years teaches you when no one will talk to you and they keep saying just get to the hospital, someone has died. I arrived at Shands Gainesville ER to be told my husband died from injuries he sustained in the crash. The priest from Shands prayed for my husband as I held his hand and said goodbye. I then had to cross the street to tell our 10 year old daughter her father was dead. Telling her daddy died is probably the worst thing I have experienced in my entire life. She screamed and cried and kept telling me no, daddy cannot be dead.
We were together 14 years, two months and one day. Carelessness took my husband away from me and our family. Our 10 year old now sleeps in our bed and has to hold my hand when she goes to sleep every night so she does not have bad dreams. Aleece told me one day, "Daddy turned the car to save me," I asked her why she said that because I thought she closed her eyes when she saw the truck pulling out. She informed me "He was pulling out on my side and he hit daddy's side, daddy turned the car to save me." I told her daddy was a hero and he protected his baby. I also let her know the only reason daddy died was because Mr. Means did not pay attention. I do not want her growing up thinking her daddy died because of her. Her daddy died because of carelessness.
Michael will never teach her how to drive, get to see her graduate, or walk her down the aisle. She was a daddy's girl and carelessness took her father away from her. Michael has a grandson who will be two in October. Kerri, Michael's oldest daughter named her son Michael after her father and my husband. Due to carelessness; Mikie will never remember the great man he was named for. Michael has a 22 year old autistic, mentally disabled son; I now have guardianship over him and am caring for him.
When we would go to sleep every night, he would lay next to me and hold me, and some mornings it feels like he is laying in the bed holding me, on those days I do not want to open my eyes or get up because I know as soon as I do, he is gone. Carelessness took him from me.
Michael and I had plans for our future. The night before Michael died, he joked with me about growing old together with me. We were supposed to be married until we were old. I was going to work for 5 more years and then retire and we were going to travel; now I do not know what I am going to do. Now due to carelessness I became a widow at 43 years old and I am raising a 10 year old little girl and an autistic, mentally handicapped 22 year old man on my own. Carelessness took my husband from me and took the children's' father away from them.
Michael retired in June of 2013, he did not even get to enjoy one year of his retirement. Michael survived 30 years as a Police Officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. January 20, 2012 he survived a heart attack on duty with less than a 1% chance to survive. How ironic, after surviving all that, he was killed in a car crash due to careless actions.