JANESVILLE - Family, friends and even strangers remembered 19-year-old Lukas A. Christofferson as someone who was never afraid to help others and always tried to brighten the days of those around him.
Christofferson died due to injuries sustained as a passenger in a March 31, 2018 intoxicated driving crash on West Dorner Road about a half mile west of South Wisconsin State Highway 213. Officials said Thursday the vehicle struck a tree so hard both front and back windshields burst, and Christofferson was found outside of the vehicle as a result of the crash.
On Thursday afternoon, Skylair A. Buckham, 22, of Milton, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment and 10 years of post-release supervision for the charge of homicide by use of a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance. For an additional charge, hit-and-run involving death, Buckham was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 10 years of post-release supervision. Both terms will be served concurrently, according to Rock County Judge Karl Hanson.
As a condition of sentencing, Hanson ordered Buckham to maintain absolute sobriety for the post-release portion of the punishment.
Before sentencing arguments were made, Christofferson family members gave statements to Hanson. In her comments, Linda Christofferson, Lukas' mother, told the court of how people they hadn't met sent kind letters to the family following his death offering condolences and memories of Lukas.
"They had no reason to tell us these things," she said. "These were messages sent from strangers to us."
She remembered Lukas as someone anyone would call on if they needed help with anything.
Lukas's father, Robert Christofferson, said the actions by Buckham to leave the scene of the crash and to not call 911 was a "self-centered and cowardly act."
To the Christofferson family, Buckham said he will carry the weight of his actions and Lukas's memory with him "for the rest of my life."
"I humbly and sincerely apologize for the continued suffering I have caused," Buckham said.
Buckham's defense attorney, Shanna Knueppel, argued Buckham should have been given a "second chance."
Buckham left the crash scene on foot and later was found in Green County at his girlfriend's home before being taken into custody. According to court records, Buckham told officers he went to a party on March 30, 2018 with Lukas Christofferson in Brodhead, noting that he had "blacked out" at the party. According to Rock County District Attorney's Office Assistant District Attorney Katharine Buker, Buckham originally lied to police about who was driving the vehicle, among other falsehoods.
According to toxicology reports, Buckham had THC, cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the crash. Authorities are still unsure of the exact time of the crash since Buckham did not alert authorities to the incident, instead fleeing the scene. Lukas Christofferson was found by a passing motorist on the side of the highway, clinging to life. He died in hospital 13 days later.
After authorities found the car was registered to Buckham, law enforcement attempted to make contact with Buckham and his girlfriend, who was allegedly dismissive of deputies and failed to fully cooperate, Buker said. Thanks to phone surveillance data, officers were able to track Buckham's phone to the woman's home in Green County, after being originally turned away from the residence.
Buker also said Buckham had changed his story regarding the night's events multiple times.
Hanson said he found Buckham's character "lacking," and considered Buckham's statements to law enforcement to be "less than credible."
"This is my cross to bear," Buckham said.