The East St. Louis woman’s measured and considered statement resonated in Judge Robert Haida’s courtroom on Tuesday afternoon during the sentencing of the man who had killed her daughter and granddaughter on Jan. 20, 2017.
“You made a decision that would affect me for the rest of my life,” on the day that he chose to drive while high on drugs, Gail Ward told Eric Eiskant. He had pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated driving under the influence, resulting in the deaths of Tamika Thornton and C’Mia Thomas. “And you don’t even know me.”
As she recounted the ways in which she and her family suffered since the deadly crash on Jan. 20, 2017, she frequently paused to tell him again, “And you don’t even know me.”
“I could have lived my entire life and never met you,” Ward said.
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Thornton, 32, and C’mia, 12, were killed in January of 2017 when their Chevrolet Suburban was hit by Eiskant’s Impala. C’Mia died on impact, with her position in the passenger side taking the brunt of the impact, Ward said. Thornton died shortly afterward at a local hospital.
Haida sentenced Eiskant to 15 years on each of the DUI charges and five years on a charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The sentences will be served concurrently, and at least 85 percent must be served.
Eiskant will be returned to federal custody, where he is awaiting sentencing on gun charges. Prosecutor Erin Conners said Eiskant had a gun in the Impala when it crashed, and federal authorities took him into their custody while St. Clair County was waiting on toxicology results after the crash. Eiskant was charged by St. Clair County in July 2017.
During the hearing Tuesday, Conners told the court that the prosecution would be able to prove at trial that Eiskant was under the influence of morphine, cocaine, fentenyl, Xanax and other drugs at the time of crash, and that officers would testify they saw track marks on his arms.
Conners also said accident reconstruction teams estimate the Impala was traveling between 89 and 104 miles an hour at the time of impact, when the westbound Impala hit the Suburban as it was turning with the light onto 79th Street from St. Clair Avenue.
Eiskant spoke briefly during the sentencing hearing, apologizing to the family for the pain he had caused.
“There’s nothing I can do to make that right,” he said.
Before handing down the sentence, Haida told Ward and her family that “there is no such thing as closure.”