NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE
FORT WORTH — On the mantel above the fireplace in a Fort Worth home sits a photo of a laughing toddler strapped into a car seat.
Abdallah Khader was in that seat the night of February 20, 2009 when his laughter stopped forever.
Stewart Richardson, a man with long history of drunken driving arrests smashed the Khader family's sedan at an Arlington intersection.
On the fifth anniversary of the accident, Abdallah sits motionless, strapped into a specialized chair. The crash left him all but brain-dead.
He now needs oxygen round the clock to fill his failing lungs. He is two months shy of his seventh birthday.
"The last year, my son's health has been declining really fast," said Loubna Khader. "Originally they said five years, so this year — when he started getting sick — my heart started pounding."
Making the pain even worse is the fact that all these years later, there has yet to be a trial.
A few miles away, in a north Fort Worth warehouse converted to a jail, Stewart Richardson waits, too. He says thinking about Abdallah Khader can bring him to tears.
"I love the little guy," he said. "I don't know him; I talk to him. It’s kind of hard, sir. I talk to him two or three times a day in my prayers."
Tests show that Richardson’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit on that night in 2009.
Richardson says he wants to get the case over with, and that he’s been waiting for a chance to send a message to Abdallah’s parents.
"If there's any way to tell them I'm very, very sorry. I’m so very sorry," he told us in an unscheduled, exclusive interview in jail. "I’ve got drawings I’ve done for them.... the little boy."
The case has been delayed in an unusual legal limbo. Prosecutors want to use prior DWI-related charges from four other states to enhance punishment. They want Richardson off the streets for good — up to life in prison instead of a maximum 20-year sentence.
While an appeals court considers the legality of the request, Richardson remains jailed. As of Thursday, he has spent 1,825 days behind bars, perhaps longer than any other inmate has waited in Tarrant County jail for trial.
Richardson says someone slipped a picture of Abdallah Khader into his cell years ago.
"The picture that was in the paper; I still have it to this day, and I try to keep it very close to me," he said. "Even on my bad days — which is often — I still pray for him first before anyone else."
Richardson says he’s read the Bible cover-to-cover at least 15 times in the last five years.
Abdallah Khader’s parents have been consulting Muslim scholars. They want to know if it would be permissible for them to deny life support if their son’s body fails completely. They say they have rushed him to the intensive care unit at least four times in the last year.
"They said the next step is to put him on life support, and that is something we have decided not to put him on," Loubna Khader said.
"It's going to be hard, but no. We have decided not to do that," added Fahad Khader, the child's father.
They say they are willing to wait as long as necessary to try to get maximum punishment for Stewart Richardson.
"We are very upset and frustrated with this guy, but we are waiting for justice,” they said.
The Khaders want to tell Richardson how much they hurt.
It was news to them that Stewart Richardson prays for them.
"I really don’t know when I see the guy how I’m going to react," Fahad Khader said. "I’m going to be very mad."
Abdallah no longer has the breath to be mad.
Or the ability to hear and feel the words "I'm sorry."