Deeva Sharma continues to be remembered amid legal battles


Story by Maya Hodison, Writer

It has been slightly over six months since Baker University’s beloved Admissions Counselor Deeva Sharma passed away in a car crash on Highway-56. Lives changed forever on that Feb. 24 night. Family members, friends, colleagues and students have been grieving the devastating loss ever since.

Sharma’s sister, Neha Doshi, has been a rock for her family, but picking up the pieces has not been easy in the slightest. “We are doing the best we can. She is in our thoughts always, and we deeply yearn for and miss her warm and joyful presence, which has been forever taken from us and is absent from our lives,” Doshi said.

Recent developments within the case regarding the car crash have been presented, and Sharma’s loved ones are hoping and fighting for justice.

The driver who caused the two-vehicle crash has been identified as 26-year-old Tayler James Livingston. According to LJWorld, Livingston was booked into Douglas County Jail on July 13 but was released soon after on bond. Livingston did not show up for the first hearing in the criminal case against him in July. He was then rescheduled to appear in the Douglas County District Court on Sept. 8, but it is uncertain whether or not it happened amidst COVID-19 delays.

According to LJWorld, Livingston will be formally charged with involuntary manslaughter after being found in violation of Kansas Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws. Involuntary manslaughter is a level-four felony.

“We are thankful the Douglas County DA (District Attorney) is pursuing felony manslaughter charges against Tayler James Livingston,” Doshi said. “His reckless driving under the influence killed Deeva. We are hopeful justice will be fully and completely served.”

The Douglas County DA’s office has kept Sharma’s close family members informed of changes and key dates. Doshi has been heavily involved in keeping updated with the case. The family is grateful for the victim liaison/coordinator and hopes their concerns and frustrations are listened to and understood.

Sharma had a deep love for animals, especially dogs, and she advocated for animal rescues. She strongly believed in the importance of diversity and inclusion, and she valued diverse and minority representation, mental health awareness and women’s rights.

“Deeva had her whole life ahead of her. She was truly everything: bright, beautiful, thoughtful, inquisitive, tenacious, sensitive and kind,” Doshi said.

Former Baker student and staff member Luke Miltz not only worked with Sharma, but shared a close relationship with her. Just a few months after graduating, Miltz landed a job in Admissions at his alma mater–Baker University. One year later, Sharma joined the Admissions team. Miltz was tasked to train her, but he quickly found himself forming a friendship that stretched beyond work hours.

The two began carpooling to and from work together almost every day, and they shared an office in Admissions for a year. Their favorite activity together was getting chicken wings, and some of Miltz’ fondest memories include going to her house for Diwali and other events.

“There is something that reminds me of her every day,” Miltz said.

Grants Coordinator Emma Carter was the Director of Admissions when Sharma worked at Baker. The three became very close. Miltz and Carter have continuously found themselves leaning on each other for support and doing much of their grieving together.

The day of Sharma’s passing is a vivid one for Carter. She remembers almost every detail. “We had lunch together that day and she was wearing a yellow sweater — new, from Target,” Carter said.

She can recall the exact conversation they had that afternoon about Sharma’s nephew’s birthday party the previous weekend, and how it was “perfect.” When the news of her passing hit that evening, it was unreal.

“I miss Deeva. I try to be more like her every day. She still challenges me to hear people, and this summer has been really hard, but also makes me feel connected to Deeva still,” Carter explained.

Sharma’s loved ones urge everyone to hold driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance to the highest level of seriousness. After recently joining MAAD’s (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) online support group, Doshi was able to see how many people across the nation are affected by such senseless actions.

“The decision to drive under the influence impacts villages of people. Deeva was a happy and kind young woman with a heart of gold and her whole life ahead of her, which was taken away from her and the world the day before her 26th birthday because of one person’s actions,” Doshi stated.

Being on a college campus in a small town, people may find themselves thinking they will be fine to make it down the street or around the corner after drinking. But, this should never be casual.

“I am realizing how many people are willing to [drive under the influence] and joke about it,” Miltz said. “I find myself pretty willing to call people out, even if it’s gonna kill the mood. People should be willing to kill the mood in the interest of safety.”

Though the pain, anger and hurt surrounding the tragedy weighs heavy, the beautiful memories of Sharma truly resonate louder. She left an impression on everyone who crossed her path, and she will never be forgotten.

“Not a day goes by without remembering Deeva and her sweet smile. Our pain is indescribable. We miss her so much,” Doshi said.