Megan Diffee of Lexington County shared her victim impact statement with us that she delivered at the sentencing of the man who almost took her life. Excerpts from the victim impact statements of her husband, Brandon and her father, David Larson are also included.
Through the eyes of a father –
Life is full of moments, full of choices. I first became a father on February 2nd, 1991, to a beautiful, healthy, baby girl 5lbs 1oz, we named her Megan. There are no words to describe the overwhelming joy that washed over me, as I held Megan in my arms. Her soft cries. Her smile. The way she looked into my eyes. These first moments with my daughter are priceless and unforgettable. As tears of joy ran down my face, made a promise, I told her; I will always protect you. The feelings of that long-ago winter afternoon remain fresh and astounding.
Life is full of moments, full of first times. I remember the time Megan took her first steps, said her first words, ate by herself for the first time, read the first sentence of a book, on her own …said Daddy for the first time. These were amazing, joyous moments, unforgettable firsts that should have only been once in a lifetime. At the Shepard Center in Atlanta, I have had to witness Megan do all these things, all over again. Painstakingly and agonizingly, relearning how to do these basic life skills at 27 years old. I cannot express to you how painful it was to watch as my little girl struggled to recall a simple word. How she was unable to point to a letter on a board. Not recognizing them and unable to control the movement of her arms and hands. I cried, as she took her first bite of food, learning to eat again.
Through the eyes of a husband-
I was following Megan as we pulled onto Highway 1 heading toward Lexington. As we neared the speed limit of 45 mph I noticed a vehicle speeding down the middle turn lane. I didn’t have time to think about how strange that was because suddenly and forcefully, that car swerved across the line and slammed directly into Megan’s car.
The sound hits me before I could process what was happening. It sounds like a million soda cans being crushed all at once. The impact of the crash makes the back end of her car fly into the air throwing her forward, breaking and shattering both legs. A second later she is smashed from behind by a pickup truck, flinging her against the headrest, fracturing her skull and causing serious, life threatening and permanent injuries to her brain.
My heart stops and my chest tightens as I sprint from my car screaming her name over and over again. As I approach the car she is slumped over, unconscious, bleeding from her head and barely breathing. The front of her car is gone. I scream at the pickup driver to call 911 as I take her bleeding head in my hands, trying to keep her still. I don’t want to move her; I just want her to know that I am here and that she needs to stay with me. A crowd starts to gather and I hear people on the phone with 911. I see people rush towards the car with horror in their eyes. I hear glass breaking and see others around me, trying to help in whatever way they can. I hear someone ask, “Is she dead?” I scream back at him, “She is alive, she is barely breathing!” She is slumped so far forward and the engine is so close to her that smoke and fumes pour directly into her face. I try to fan it away and breathe in the fumes for her while trying to keep her still… I’m trying to focus but I can’t. I keep calling her name, trying to let her know that I’m right here. Around me, others are trying to pull her seat backwards to relieve the pressure on her legs, and that’s when I look down. Her legs are completely crushed. There is bone fragments and blood pouring from around her shattered kneecap and her right ankle is completely twisted backward. I can’t breathe. I feel nothing but dread. At that moment I believe this is the last time I’m ever going to see my wife alive. These are the last breaths I’m going to see my best friend take. How am I ever going to tell her parents…my parents? Finally, someone with emergency services pulls me toward the ambulance. My mind is racing. I need to get back over there to see her! What are they doing? Is she still breathing? Who was it that hit my wife and why did it look like he aimed right for her? I hear the pop of the door being pried open by the Jaws of Life and someone gets in the driver’s seat to tell me I can’t be in the back with her as we go to the hospital.
I don’t see Megan for 9 or 10 excruciating hours. I get periodic updates about the severity of her brain injury, the emergency surgeries and how she is fighting for her life. I make unbearable phone calls to friends and family, unsure of how to say that Megan may be dying as we speak. I throw up in the bathroom and scrub her blood from my hands and face. When I finally am able to see her, her face and body are swollen almost to the point of being unrecognizable, there is blood around her ears and legs, and she is still unconscious. There is no relief for days as she continues to fight for her life. I get 1 or 2 hours of sleep on a table in the waiting room, not eating or showering because I’m too afraid to go too far from her room.
I will never forget the relief of hearing the head of her trauma team tell us that she was going to make it, assuming there were no unforeseeable setbacks. I will also never forget the following weeks and months as she transitioned from the trauma ICU, where she was hallucinating, in excruciating pain, unable to move her arms and had multiple surgeries – to the Shepherd Center where she had more surgeries, suffered through intense pain during therapy sessions and was unable to be alone without being petrified. I will never forget the looks of complete despair on her face when I had to carry her to use the bathroom or when I had to give her a shower or even brush her teeth because she didn’t have the motor skills to do it on her own.
Through the eyes of a Victim Survivor-
2 hours and 15 minutes. That was my finishing time for the first half marathon I ran. That was just months before my ankle was shattered, my knee cap became a jigsaw puzzle, my right foot was turned backwards, and the surgeon told my husband while I was lying in the ICU that my running days were over.
Quality Specialist. That was my title at Southeastern Freight. A job that was becoming a career I truly enjoyed and I was looking forward to an upcoming promotion. But just a few months ago, I finished occupational therapy where I had to relearn to lift each of my fingers one by one. That therapy came after the surgeons didn’t know if I’d ever be able to move my arms again.
Pete the Cat. That was one of the last books I read to a child I volunteered with at the United Way. I loved reading to those kids and making them feel special and encouraged. But just a few weeks ago I had surgery on my eye to try to correct my vision and attempt to repair the nerves that were severely damaged.
Boy or girl? My husband and I were getting ready to try and start a family. We were so excited to begin a new chapter in our lives. But the trauma to my body and brain, as well as the numerous medications I have to be on, have put those plans on hold for the foreseeable future.
The Book of John. That was the Bible Study I was leading for women at work. Growing in faith and being in fellowship was such a passion of mine. Now I wonder every day why my Lord let this happen to me.
I chose to get up the morning of May 5, 2018. I chose to give my husband a kiss and pet my two dogs. I chose to get into my car to attend a kid’s soccer game, a game I never made it too. Other choices were made that morning as well. Choices that altered my body, my brain, and my life forever. Choices that have left images in my husband’s mind that won’t ever seem to go away. So your honor, I’m asking that you choose to give Mr. Swearingen the maximum sentence. His sentence will eventually come to an end, but my sentence is lifelong.
On July 23, 2019 Trey Swearingen was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his actions on May 5, 2018. You can view the sentencing hearing in its entirety here https://www.facebook.com/WIS10/videos/703266500124109/UzpfSTE0MTUwMzU0Mjg6MTAyMjAyMjEyMTY5MDY2Nzg/