Maggie Dunn’s family in court: “I will never understand why Maggie was issued a death sentence, why we were issued a life sentence”

PORT ALLEN — The family of Maggie Dunn, a 17-year-old junior at Brusly High School, held back tears as they demanded David Cauthron look at them when they spoke to him in a West Baton Rouge courtroom Monday. Also in the courtroom was Liam Dunn, Maggie’s older brother, who was in the backseat of the car on Dec. 2022 and survived.

READ NOW: Caroline Gill’s family in court & their victim impact statements

March 18, 2022 was slated to be jury selection for the trial against David Cauthron, a former Addis Police Officer, whose actions during a police chase ultimately killed Dunn & her best friend Caroline Gill and severely injured Liam Dunn.

Cauthron was charged with two counts of negligent homicide for the Dec. 31, 2022 crash in Brusly. He was helping Baton Rouge police in pursuit of a man on La 1 southbound, who had stolen his dad’s car from Baton Rouge.

In lieu of trial, he pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and one count of negligent injuring. In total, he was sentenced to 32 years with 22 years suspended. That means, he will serve roughly 10 years behind bars. After his release, he will be required to speak to high school students about his experience and remain on three years active supervised probation. He is never to work in law enforcement again, per the conditions of the plea deal.

Cauthron must turn himself into the West Baton Rouge Parish jail on May 23, 2024 to begin serving his time.

Watch Gill & Dunn families respond after court.

During court, the Dunn/Martin family had the opportunity to make their victim impact statements through the tears and as many in the courtroom tried to fight back their tears. For the first time in nearly 15 months since the deadly crash, Cauthron spoke to the families and apologized for his actions. Maggie Dunn’s dad Randall Dunn held up a picture of his daughter and asked for Cauthron to look at it while he addressed him. Maggie’s mom Erin Martin and brother Liam Dunn also requested Cauthron to look at them in the eyes as they addressed their statements to him. Below are each family member’s statements as well as Cauthron’s response.

Victim Impact Statements

My name is Randall Dunn, Father of Margaret “Maggie” Dunn – Mags as we all called her.  I sit here before you all today in disbelief, sadness and loss.  A piece of my heart was shattered on December 31st 2022.  Because of your actions, David, my beautiful baby girl is missed as a daughter, as stepdaughter, as a sister, a granddaughter, a niece, a cousin and most importantly she is missed as a friend.  Your actions have robbed my family of seeing Maggie smile while getting ready for her senior prom and basking in her accomplishments upon graduating with honors from high school.  You have also robbed her (and us) of experiencing the trials and tribulations of working her way through college, her college graduation and the anticipation of starting her career.  You have also robbed my beautiful perfect girl of Love that might have been, a marriage that might have taken place and any children she may have had.  I could go on and on about what you took from us David, but I would be remiss not to discuss your actions.

Law enforcement personnel take an oath to “Serve and to Protect”.  You served that day for sure.  You “Served” your own Ego and Adrenaline with no regard for anyone on the road.  You “Protected” No one that day but yourself.  You took it upon yourself, as you approached the red light at the intersection, to make a conscience decision as evidenced by your final words “This is gonna f’ing hurt”, just before running that red light at 90mph crashing into the vehicle issuing a death sentence to two beautiful, perfect human beings Maggie and Caroline and critically injuring our son Liam.  What gave you that right?  You issued more than a death sentence that day though, you issued a life sentence of sadness and grief to all of the families involved.

You will get out of prison to experience most of the life events with your own children that you robbed us of.  When you get out of prison and move on with your life, our families will still be serving the life sentence that you issued.  My only hope is that you remember the faces of Maggie and Caroline and how lucky you are to be able to experience the events you took from us. 

2nd Corinthians Chapter 5 Verse 10 reads as follows: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Now go on and serve your earthly sentence like a man, God is the only one that can pass judgement on you in the afterlife.

Randall Dunn (Maggie Dunn’s father)

My name is Erin Martin, Mother of Maggie and Liam Dunn.

David, will you give me the dignity of looking at me, please?

I stand before you today, a mother, grieving, angry, and lost. That NYE somehow feels like it was 10 years ago and 10 min ago all at the same time. 

In Dec. 2022, Maggie was a Jr. in High school. She was a straight A student, cheerleader, in every club, and had a job outside of school. She was responsible, clever, and OMG, so funny. And you can’t ignore that she was insanely beautiful. She was a perfect daughter and an amazing friend. And she was a strongly principled young woman who knew right from wrong and she lived by those values. She was a truly good person. She had a purpose to her life. Until her life was cut short by the careless actions and selfish choices you made that day.

Maggie and Caroline died in the most horrible, unnecessary of circumstances. I am constantly tormented by the thoughts of what they endured. I play it out in my mind over and over… Was she scared? Did she suffer? Did she think that I abandoned her in her time of need?  If Maggie had died of an illness, I would have been there to care for her at the end.  But instead she suffered and died with only strangers around her.  There was no kindness in it.  Is this what you meant when you said “this is going to hurt?” The thought of it is unbearable.  I am haunted by it to this day.

I stand before you today, a broken person, who has lost every sense of normality. My entire outlook on life has changed since Maggie was taken from me. I am overly cautious. I worry constantly about my other children. I prefer not to leave the familiarity and security of my home – the bigger world has lost it’s appeal to me. My days are consumed with thoughts of Maggie. The grief is so heavy, the feelings of loss so great it is visceral. And with the sorrow comes waves of panic at not being able to see her again.  I can never talk to her, never hug her.  The evenings are especially difficult.  I can’t help but let my mind wander to the what ifs? Or should I say the “never will bes”… 

Where would she have gone to college?

Who would she have married?

How many kids would she have had?

What would she have become? Whatever it was, she would’ve been amazing…

It seems that the only moments of peace I have during the day are the first few seconds after I wake up – until the painful reality sets in that it is indeed, not all just a nightmare. And I have to face yet another day without Maggie.

I stand before you today, representing the multitude of lives who have been affected by the events of that NYE. Maggie and Caroline’s deaths were felt by so many people in this community. By her grandparents, all in their 70s & 80s, who have been absolutely devastated by this tragedy. By Abby and Brooklyn, who have been her best friends since the first day they met in 3rd grade. They spent every minute together and were more like sisters than friends, They made so many plans for their futures together. They are still having difficulty dealing with her loss and facing a future without their sister.

I will never understand the decisions you made that day. I will never understand why Maggie was issued a death sentence, why we were issued a life sentence, and yet you will serve only a few years and then go on to live your life, never having shown any remorse for the lives you have ruined. 

Maggie was a gift from God, and the 6.298 days she spent on this Earth were a gift to all of us. David, you robbed us of that gift.  You robbed her of her future & us of sharing that future with her. You robbed my son of his health and his dignity. And you robbed an entire community of it’s peace and stability. If it were in my power, I would also sentence you to the unending sorrow, heartache, pain, and sadness that we all wake up to each day.

Erin Martin (Maggie Dunn’s mother)

My name is Liam Dunn, brother of the beautiful Maggie Dunn. I stand before you today a completely heartbroken and permanently scarred man. On December 31, 2022, you not only took my sister’s life but drastically changed mine forever. David, you thrust upon me great physical trauma. Before you, I was a healthy 20-year-old. Your disregard for public safety left me with 6 broken bones and left my parents with the fear of losing another child. You caused me to miss out on a key component of the grieving process when I was denied the ability to have true closure by missing my little sister’s funeral despite my parent’s best efforts to push it back as long as they could in hopes I could attend. I spent two weeks on a ventilator, which would have been hard enough to come to terms with, but three days after being taken off of the life-saving machines, I was told that my sister had passed away and I had been robbed of the opportunity to say my final goodbyes to my best friend. 

The recovery process was grueling and something no person would ever want to go through. Things that you consider normal and take for granted like taking a shower or getting into your car were a struggle for me. I spent months in and out of wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches during my recovery process. There were countless sleepless nights due to the burning nerve pain searing down my leg. While everyone around me had begun to go back to their everyday routines and began figuring out what “normal” now meant to them, I was at home trying to understand how and why everything unfolded the way it did. While my friends were returning to school after winter break, I was in intense physical therapy. Speaking of school, because of you, I fell behind academically. Due to all of my injuries, I was forced to sit out a semester which will not only push back my graduation date but the start of my career. 

Although the broken bones were able to be repaired, you caused irreversible damage to my heart and lungs. Only time will tell how the Congestive Heart Failure and ARDS will affect me in the long run. Who knows, you may have even cost me years I have to live as time goes by. And yes, you have hurt me physically, but nothing hurts more than being denied a future with Maggie. Growing up so close in age I always thought our future children would be as close as we were. I didn’t just lose my sister, I lost a lifetime of “what ifs”. I always wondered where my sister would go to college and what kind of woman she would be. We always talked about how we would have one year in college together and laughed about what would become of that precious time together. I know both Maggie and Caroline would have gone on to do amazing things. You single-handedly caused two beautiful, young girls to be gone forever, robbing them of so many of life’s little pleasures and mysteries, and you altered the entire trajectory of my life. I’ll always be thankful for the 17 years I spent with Maggie, as she was a friend to all and loved by anyone lucky enough to know her.

Liam Dunn (Maggie Dunn’s older brother)

“Night, Mags. Love you.” “Goodnight, Sissy. Love you.” That’s what we would do before we fell
asleep at night – in our little twin beds in the front bedroom that we shared on one of the rare
nights she didn’t fall asleep in our parents’ bedroom first. I can still see her long, messy blonde
curls falling across her little nightgown. And her eyes closed as she drifted to sleep. The last
memory I have of seeing her, her eyes were closed, and she looked peaceful. But this time, my
heart was in a million pieces because I knew I’d never see her again.

My name is Victoria Hill, and I am Liam and Maggie’s older sister. After today, you may forget
my name and may even forget my face, but you, David, are permanently woven into the
tapestry of my life. You so carelessly took one of the people I held most dear and with zero
regard for how wonderful my sister was. So, I’m going to tell you a little bit about her. She was
the funniest person I have ever met. She loved fiercely and fought for what she believed in. She
was the smartest of all of us and given the opportunity, would’ve changed the world for the
better. She was sassy and feisty and could give you a run for your money in an argument and
as her sister, I witnessed that firsthand on many, many occasions like that time we argued for 10
minutes on the Popeyes chicken sandwich, regular vs. spicy. Her smile could illuminate the
darkest of rooms, and her laugh could bring a smile to the saddest of faces. Her future was
bright, but that is all now a distant memory. All I have now are stories…like how she used to say
“gadraff” instead of “giraffe” or how she would dance all day long or how she couldn’t carry a
tune in a bucket but thought she was a decent singer or how she would’ve eaten Yamato for
every meal if she could have. But you see, all these wonderful memories I have are now hinged
with blue. I’m sure they will one day return to being funny and heartwarming but that will take
time. And you didn’t just take her away from us, you took away a lifetime of possibilities. I will
never see her graduate high school or college. I will never see her in a wedding dress. I will
never see her become a mom. Liam, Gemma, and I will never see her be an aunt to our future
children. And when our parents are old and gray and we are left reminiscing about the days
gone by, she will not be there to share in the joys of our youth. But besides what you took, let
me elaborate on how you’ve completely changed the core of who I am and disrupted my sense
of stability. My sister was my tether. She always kept me grounded, called me out for being too
dramatic, and made me feel loved when I felt like a disappointment to everyone in my life. My
sister never left me. She was my rock, my constant, my North Star. I knew that as long as she
and Liam were here, I would always have someone who loved me. Yes, she and I fought but I’d
like for anyone to find sisters who don’t. When she was killed, I felt lost and like I would never be
found again. You took my sense of belonging, my sense of security, and the only human
(besides my brother) that truly never once made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to be loved.
And in those hours, I needed him most, my baby brother, the only other person who would’ve
honestly known the emotional pain I was in, was on a ventilator. He had to miss the funeral for
his little sister, his best friend. And to sit there and watch him fight for his life, day in and day out,
was gut-wrenching to say the least. This funny, silly, wild kid brother of mine now needed
machines to keep him alive. I was living in a hell you created. As the eldest daughter, I was left
to grieve the worst tragedy I could only have nightmares about without my two built-in best
friends. My parents were broken, and to see them like that flipped my world on its axis. I bore
the shock, sadness, and heartbreak without my parents at a time when I needed them most
because how selfish would I be to impose my emotions on my parents who were experiencing
the worst pain a human being could possibly bear. And in that moment, I knew that I was right:
without my siblings, I am lost. Was all of this worth it? Did you honestly believe that you’re
joining the chase would save the day? Why couldn’t you slam on your brakes instead of saying

How much it was going to hurt? She meant less than nothing to you, but she meant the world to
me and deserved a fighting chance. But despite the pain and turmoil we have suffered at your
hands, you have also taught me more about God, life, and myself than I could’ve ever known
without you. On that horrific day, I swore off my faith. I denied God and that was never
something I thought would be possible. But soon after the initial shock wore off, I clung to my
faith. In spite of you, I knew He was real because he saved my baby brother, and because I
needed to believe that my sister lives on somewhere in the great beyond because she was too
incredible to simply be gone permanently. I witnessed firsthand how wonderful this community
could be. You may have acted so cruelly and carelessly, but this community is filled with salt of
the earth people who restored my faith in humanity. And lastly, you made me realize how loved I
really am. My friends have always been a chosen family for me, but at the worst time in my life,
they really showed me what being a family by choice means. I was never alone, not even for a
moment. They held my hand and hugged me while I sobbed. They drove me around because
you caused me to be afraid to get behind the wheel of a car, let me sleep at their homes
because I was too afraid to be alone, and sat with me at the hospital to force me to eat and rest
and to be thankful for Liam’s milestones. And bit by bit, they put the shattered pieces of my
heart back together. It will never be the same, it is cracked and filled with jagged edges, but it is
there, glued back together because of the women in my life who refused to let me give up on joy
and love and laughter because they knew my sister wouldn’t want that for me. So today, I’m
going to say something to you that I never thought possible, especially since you have offered
no genuine apology for what you’ve done: I forgive you. Please know that this is not for you, but
for me and for my family, and most importantly for my sister. Holding on to the hate and anger I
have for you would be like me drinking poison and waiting for it to affect you. I choose to forgive
you because I choose to find the goodness in life again, and because my sister would have
been able to find it in her heart to bestow such grace upon you and I want to honor her.
Everything I do on this earth is to make her proud so that when I take my final bow, I can be
reunited with her, and she will greet me once more with that brilliant smile.

Victoria Hill (Maggie Dunn’s older sister)

David Cauthron outside the courthouse before his plea deal March 18, 2024.

Because of my decisions in December 2022, your families will never be the same. I apologize. I became a police officer to protect people but that’s not what happened that day. Nothing I say will bring those kids back. Liam, I am so sorry for the pain I caused you. To Maggie & Caroline, I apologize. I wish I could trade places with them everyday.

David Cauthron (Former Addis Officer whose actions killed Gill & Dunn)

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