Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.
Kristoffer Thomas Craft was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Thursday after he was convicted of felony murder for the 2017 drunken-driving death of his young son. The sentence was delivered in the 15th District Court in Sherman by Judge Jim Fallon and was met with little reaction from Craft.
Interim Grayson County District Attorney and lead prosecutor Brett Smith requested a 40-year sentence, while family members and friends who testified on behalf of Craft requested that he only be sentenced to the minimum of five years. Fallon said the sentence would be adjusted for Craft’s time served. Craft pleaded not guilty to the charge and will not be eligible for probation.
“Obviously we asked for a lengthier sentence and expected a little bit more, but that’s Judge Fallon’s job and I respect his decision,” Smith said. “I think the important thing, in this case, is that we got our felony murder conviction.”
Craft, 36, of Leonard, was traveling west on FM 814 on April 7, 2017 when he failed to stop his vehicle at the “T” intersection with State Highway 160 in Whitewright. His truck left the roadway at roughly 60 mph, entered a ditch and became airborne before slamming into an unoccupied home. His son, Colton Craft, 7, was riding in the truck’s front passenger seat without a seat belt at the time of the crash and died of blunt force trauma injuries.
Craft did not speak at Thursday’s hearing but his attorney Pete Schulte said he was satisfied with the 18-year sentence and that the punishment more closely aligned with a different charge he and his team had always sought for Craft.
“We felt like, since the beginning, this was a second-degree intoxication manslaughter case,” Schulte said. “It should have never been a murder case and that was confirmed by the judge today. The range of punishment on intoxication manslaughter is between two years and 20 years and we wanted somewhere under 20 (years). That’s what the judge did, which I think was the absolute right decision. So, we’re very pleased.”
During the May trial, prosecutors charged Craft’s actions were “clearly dangerous” to human life — a stipulation which led them to pursue the felony murder charge. The trial was held over three days, during which jurors heard from local and state law enforcement officers, medical physicians, neighbors and Craft’s own mother. Craft did not testify but cried throughout the trial and largely did so during the presentation of video and medical evidence. But jurors were not swayed and returned a unanimous guilty verdict after less than an hour of deliberation.
Neighbors who ran to the scene of the crash testified that rather than immediately helping his son, Craft exited the pickup and began throwing beer cans in the truck bed as they fell out of the vehicle. Two neighbors also said Craft attempted to leave the scene, asked them not to call 911 and physically tried to keep them from reaching Colton through the jammed passenger door.
Police body camera footage presented as evidence showed Craft admitting to officers that he had consumed at least three beers in the hours preceding the wreck and that he was distracted by a phone call he received while driving.
“My phone went off, I answered it and missed the stop sign,” Craft said on the footage. “That was my bad.”
Two separate blood tests, taken after the crash, showed Craft had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.137 and 0.145 — both of which exceeded the legal limit of 0.08. Vehicle data showed Craft took no evasive action and was traveling between 57 mph and 60 mph when his vehicle exited the road. Cellphone records indicated Craft placed at least two outgoing calls and received two incoming calls in the five minutes before the wreck.
Witnesses from both the prosecution and defense testified at the sentencing hearing. Two former police officers of the Anna and Trenton police departments testified on behalf of the prosecution. The officers detailed their handling of two cases from 2010 and 2012 involving Craft and alcohol related charges against him, including one in which Craft was charged with driving while intoxicated after he rolled his pickup twice and an officer found “between 75 and 100 beer cans” scattered about the wreckage.
Craft’s ex-wife was present for some portion of the trial but did not attend the sentencing hearing. Defense witnesses included friends of Craft and his own mother, Pam Thompson, who testified to Craft’s character and all asked that he receive the minimum sentence. Thompson described the 2017 wreck as an accident and one that had already caused her son and their family enough sadness and pain. Thompson said she felt Fallon was receptive to her family’s situation and that his sentence was fair, but spoke critically of the prosecution.
“I’ll never understand why the DA’s office made us go through that trial,” Thompson said. “We didn’t have to do that. They were out to prove a point and they hurt a lot of people doing it.”
Smith said while he sympathized with the family, but Craft was ultimately responsible for his own actions.
“Mr. Craft is the one that made the decision to go to trial,” Smith said. “So if the family was traumatized by the trial, that’s unfortunate. We offered Mr. Craft a plea bargain to felony murder and to go in open to Judge Fallon, which is essentially how it turned out anyway. He could have done that and avoided a trial, but we didn’t let him plead on his terms and we don’t let defendants plead on their terms.”