FORT WORTH –– Loubna Khader was trembling, her face pointed at a blank concrete wall. She clutched a framed photograph of her 6-year-old son Abdallah in her shaking hands. Then two-years-old, the boy was smiling.
Khader’s back faced a two-way mirror. Soon, the door to the room opposite her opened. Stewart Richardson slunk forward, led in by a jail guard.
Also in Khader’s hand was a photo of Abdallah as he is now, locked in a vegetative state.
The state says the man seated on a metal stool on the other side of the glass smashed into the family sedan in a horrific drunken driving collision in 2009. Khader was here at his behest –– he said Wednesday he wanted to apologize. On Thursday, Khader said she wanted to confront him.
She charged the glass, forcefully positioning the framed photo of her son in front of Richardson’s eyes.
“Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Look at this face! Look at him!,” she furiously screamed. Richardson looked at the photos and then looked down.
“I look at him every day,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
Richardson pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated. His blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit at the time of the crash. But there has been no trial on the more serious charge, which could keep Richardson in prison for life.
An appeals court is considering whether to allow the state to enhance Richardson’s punishment by using prior alcohol-related charges in four other states. And so, Richardson has been sitting in Tarrant County Jail for the past five years while Abdallah’s parents wait for a chance to show him their son’s suffering face to face.
On Wednesday, Richardson said from jail that he was willing to meet the family to apologize. On Thursday, Khader requested visitation and Richardson agreed.
“I’m supposed to be go home now and my son is going to be OK because you said you’re sorry? It’s been five years today. Five years! My son is dying every single day,” she yelled through the glass partition.
Richardson repeatedly apologized and said he prays for the family. He did not stand up and leave. He let a wounded mother pour out her rage until she could no longer continue.
“Just go now,” she finally said. “Just go.”
“God bless,” Richardson whispered.
For Abdallah Khader’s mother, the crash isn’t history. It’s the present and the future. Her son is always nearby yet far away.
“I am never going to forgive you for what you did to my son!,” she said, slamming the glass. “Never!”
Stewart Richardson then returned to his cell. Loubna Khader slumped into a chair and wept.