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Driver gets 13-26 years in expressway shooting

On the night of Oct. 5, 2008, it was a few minutes of "road rage" involving two drivers. On Friday, the human wreckage that it created and that will last lifetimes filled a Philadelphia courtroom.

On the night of Oct. 5, 2008, it was a few minutes of "road rage" involving two drivers.

On Friday, the human wreckage that it created and that will last lifetimes filled a Philadelphia courtroom.

Christian Squillaciotti - the hulking former Marine whose rage was purportedly fueled not by combat but by a childhood of sexual and physical abuse - will spend the next 13 to 26 years in state prison followed by 35 years of court-monitored outside mental-health care.

As for Thomas Timko - the man Squillaciotti admitted shooting - life is a search for memories obliterated by the bullet that tore through his head, the inability ever to work or provide for his family, and a crescent-shaped scar that forces him to endure the stares of strangers.

Common Pleas Court Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi told Squillaciotti she believed he was remorseful. But she said she could not accept his failure to seek more help after a lifetime of mental-health treatment.

"There is incapacitating mental illness and then there are people who are mentally ill and don't want to take responsibility for their actions," DeFino-Nastasi said. "That's what we have here."

Squillaciotti, 35, 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, his head no longer shaved and face softened by a goatee, said nothing before being sentenced.

Mostly he stared blankly at the tabletop before him. He never looked at Timko or at a dozen of his own relatives and friends who described him in letters to the judge as a "gentle giant."

Nor did he watch a nine-minute video of the one victim not present: Timko's 8-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, traumatized and barely responsive, being interviewed by a child counselor three days after the shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lipscomb said Kaitlyn, who was in the car when her father was shot, remained traumatized and was not permitted to attend court.

Squillaciotti pleaded guilty in December to two counts of attempted murder and possessing an instrument of crime in the shooting on the Schuylkill Expressway.

According to testimony at a hearing last year, both drivers were returning to Pennsylvania from South Jersey. Squillaciotti and his wife, Chastity, were in his Ford F-150, driving to their South Philadelphia home from a friend's barbecue. Timko, of Glendora, was in a Toyota Highlander SUV, taking Kaitlyn to her mother's home in Norristown.

The encounter began about five miles from Philadelphia when, according to testimony, high-beam headlights in a rearview mirror led to a vehicular duel between the two drivers.

Timko went through the Walt Whitman Bridge tolls first, followed onto the Schuylkill Expressway about 16 seconds later by Squillaciotti. Squillaciotti drove along the passenger side of Timko's SUV and fired four shots into the car with a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol; one shot hit Timko in the head.

Timko managed to get his car to the shoulder. Squillaciotti took the Passyunk Avenue exit home.

Timko said afterward, "I have no memory of what happened. The last thing I remember is stretching my arm to try to shield my daughter."

Timko did not testify. Instead, Lipscomb read Timko's letter to the judge in which he said, "They say I gave him the finger. I can't imagine doing that knowing my little girl was in the car."

"This man destroyed a lot of lives," Timko's letter continued. "It's a nightmare for me and my little girl that will never stop."

Timko said he has seizures that mean he cannot work, drive, or be left alone. He has no health insurance, and his medical bills forced the sale of his family's home. He can no longer see his daughter or son as often as he did.

Lipscomb asked the judge to sentence Squillaciotti to 25 to 50 years in prison: "He is not a monster and he is not evil. But he is dangerous, as he proved that night."

Defense attorney Christopher J. Angelo called two witnesses - Squillaciotti's mother, Kathleen Custer, and psychologist Allan Tepper - who testified about a history of sexual abuse that began at age 4 when Squillaciotti was molested by an uncle, followed by physical abuse from a violent, alcoholic stepfather.

Tepper said the family was marked by a "multigenerational history of incest and sexual abuse."

DeFino-Nastasi agreed with Angelo that Squillaciotti should get credit for the fact that the 2008 shooting was his first crime and for military service from 1993 to 1995, including seeing action in Haiti.

Still, the judge noted, the Marines and military action did not cause Squillaciotti's deep-seated mental problems or his failure to seek treatment.

"I do believe you are remorseful," DeFino-Nastasi said. "It's just that the damage has been done, and the damage done no one can make whole."

After sentencing, Timko haltingly answered reporters' questions as he was physically steadied by a friend and his fiancee, Dawn Roccia.

"I think it was fair," Timko said of the sentence. "I can't do nothing about it now."