Sara "Sasa" Shorteno with her granddaughter Marley on Tuesday, March 28. Photo courtesy of Scott Crutchfield.

As the two said their goodbyes, Sara Shorteno stood at the doorway of her son’s home in Los Altos and expressed to him how the past few days she had spent among family and her 1-year-old granddaughter were the happiest of her life.

“I’m happy that you’re happy; we’ll do it again tomorrow,” her son, 40-year-old Scott Crutchfield, responded.

“And that never happened.”

Shorteno, or “Sasa” as she liked to be called, was on her way back to her Airbnb near Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway following a family dinner March 28 when the car she, along with Scott’s father and stepmother were in, was struck by another vehicle that was being pursued by Seal Beach Police.

The car, according to Scott, ”T-boned” his parent’s vehicle, pushing them about 100 feet into several other cars at the intersection.

Police said seven people were injured as a result of the crash, five of whom required hospitalization, including Scott’s father and stepmother.

Scott later learned his father and stepmother had been transported to Long Beach Memorial and St. Mary Medical Center, respectively.

Still thinking his mother was transported elsewhere for her injuries, Scott called several hospitals in search of her. Then, his mother-in-law showed him footage on the news that showed an aerial shot of paramedics performing CPR on a woman beside the car his parents had been driving.

“That’s when I knew,” Scott said.

Sasa was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 74.

‘A people person’

Sasa was born on Jan. 25, 1949, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

The daughter of a judge and ballet dancer, Sasa’s upbringing was “phenomenal,” Scott said.

She was the oldest of three siblings, enjoyed horseback riding, and shared a strong bond with her father.

“She was such a people person, Scott said. “People just gravitated toward her.”

Sasa met her spouse, Rob, sometime around her college years. The two eventually decided to move from Montreal to Toronto, and in 1983, Scott, her only child, was born.

Although Sasa and Rob split up when Scott was only 1-year-old, they remained good friends, with the two continuing to help and support each other.

Even when Rob remarried, his friendship with Sasa only continued to grow.

“My mother and stepmother were like sisters,” Scott said. “And it usually doesn’t happen … they were just such amazing people.”

For a short while, Sasa worked and pursued a career in real estate but eventually put her career on hold to care for her aging parents and her son. For much of her life, she became a caregiver, focused on helping and caring for the people that she loved.

This left an everlasting impression on Scott, who works as a physical therapist in Long Beach, he says because it’s a way for him to help people.

“She was so dang positive, so dang caring, empathetic, love for others and that’s basically something that I’ve tried to take from her,” Scott said.


Scott didn’t know it then, but by the time he was 7, he had already met his soulmate.

Scott’s father was friends with a man from California who shared a similar interest in water skiing. Each summer, the two fathers would take their children up to their cabins north of Toronto to take part in the activity.

That’s how Scott met Martine.

As the two grew older, their friendship blossomed into a relationship, but after summer was over, Scott remained in Toronto while Martine went back home to California.

“We always liked each other so eventually we knew someone would have to move,” Scott said.

So when the opportunity presented itself to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy in California, Scott decided it was time to move out west.

“Moving away was one of the toughest decisions of my life… I was her only child and I was her world,” Scott said about his mother. “So when I left it was tough on her, but she never let that show.”

For a while, Scott and Martine were on the fence about having children, but they decided to give it a try.

After learning that Martine was pregnant, they decided to tell Sasa on April Fools’ Day.

“She didn’t believe us,” Scott said. “Then she absolutely broke down.”

When their daughter Marley was born, she instantly became Sasa’s world.

“The love she had for her, I don’t even know how to explain that, you can’t even put it into words,” Scott said.

‘The light at the end of the tunnel’ 

Sasa, her ex-husband Rob, and his wife, Cathy, arrived in California on March 23. They had planned to stay 10 days and spend as much family time as possible with Scott, Martine, and Marley, who was now 1 year old.

“There were no plans to see Hollywood or whatever,” Scott said. “The plan was 100% to spend as much time with Marley and everyone basically the entire time.”

From left to right: Marley Crutchfield, Scott Crutchfield, and Sara “Sasa” Shorteno. Photo Courtesy of Scott Crutchfield.

Over the next few days, they spent time playing with Marley and teaching her who grandpa and “grandmama” was.

One day, Scott recalls his mother telling everyone about how happy she was in California and that she was always alone in Toronto. She even called her sister and told her how the last few days had been some of the best in her life, Scott said.

“The only thing keeping me together was knowing that she had some of the best last few days of her life spending time with me and her granddaughter,” he said.

After spending the day together on March 28, the family gathered for a nice dinner at Scott’s house.

When it was time to leave, Sasa expressed to Scott that she was “ecstatic with how she got to spend time with Marley all day.”

The drive back to the rental home was a 5-mile ride, Scott said.

The driver of the vehicle that struck his parents was identified by police as 39-year-old Chaz Lamar Long.

Long was taken into custody and, along with a woman inside his car, was transported to a hospital for treatment. An infant found by authorities inside the vehicle was also taken to the hospital as a precaution, police said.

Long, who had a federal no-bail warrant for weapons violations at the time, has since been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of evading a peace officer causing serious bodily injury, and a count of child abuse and endangerment.

Now, Scott is left picking up the pieces and trying to help his father and stepmother recover from the severe injuries they suffered during the crash.

“I was and still am just extremely angry at the situation,” Scott said. “[Long] will probably spend the rest of his life in prison but my mother won’t ever take another breath.”

Scott’s father and stepmother have had to cancel their flights back home after the crash left them hospitalized for three days.

“I honestly don’t know if my dad will ever be able to work again,” Scott said, adding that once his father and stepmother are cleared to fly back, he will also be traveling back with them to Toronto to care for them.

In the days following his mother’s death, Scott says he’s received a tremendous amount of support from people whose lives were impacted by his mother.

He says that whether you knew Sasa for 10 minutes or 10 years, she was willing to help anybody.

“I can’t believe the support system she had around her,” Scott said. “The light at the end of the tunnel is that she got to be around the people she loved the most before she died.”

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