Sobs spilled from Adrianna Young’s lips Thursday as she apologized to the family she robbed of a wife and mother.
“There is not a day that passes without your family on my mind. My sorrow, pain, guilt, grief never goes away,” she cried before being sentenced her to four and a half years behind bars at the Lorain Correctional Institution and permanently banned from driving.
Young, 25, of Oberlin, had pleaded guilty to counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, possession of marijuana, and tampering with evidence — all were connected to the death of Debra Majkut on July 28, 2015, in Amherst Township.
Early that morning, Young was driving south on Rt. 58, rushing to get to work and texting on her cell phone. Blood tests also showed she had marijuana in her system when she went off the road and smashed into the side of the Majkut family home, just south of Rt. 113.
As Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge James Miraldi listened intently, assistant Lorain County prosecutor Chris Pierre described how Young’s car went through a window and wall, landing completely inside the house. Neighbors heard the crash and ran to help, finding Young crawling out of the home.
Debra Majkut “loved her boys with her life,” taking the brunt of the crash, Pierre said. She was crushed by the car and her baby son Jaxon was pinned under the hot exhaust pipe, which seared the flesh of his face. Another son, 12-year-old Jacob, said he knew his mother was dead and pleaded with neighbors to save his brother, said the prosecutor.
Meanwhile, Young was pacing and talking on her cell phone but did not lift a hand to help, he said.
As Pierre recounted the story, Young continued to shed tears, her head sagging down to the table at which she sat next to defense attorney Jack Bradley.
Her head sank lower as the prosecutor insisted Young made up a story about an animal running across the road — investigators found no evidence to back her claim — and related how she’d been texting with a girlfriend while driving. Pierre grew upset as he said Young deleted the texts in an attempt to hide evidence of her guilt.
According to Pierre, at one point Young said she should have run from the crash scene but “couldn’t because there was a freaking baby under the car.”
Baby Jaxon spent nearly two months in the hospital, enduring multiple surgeries, including skin grafts from the back of his head to the front. Pierre argued the child’s pain must have been beyond understanding.
Young not only took a life, but left physical, mental, emotional, and economic wounds that the Majkut family will always struggle with, Pierre said.
James Majkut held back tears as he told the court how his wife, a high school valedictorian whose greatest wish had been to have children, had gone through in vitro fertilization treatments to conceive Jaxon. She had also been preparing to go back to school.
“We had everything we wanted in life,” he said.
Then that life was ripped apart.
“I and my kids have a lifetime of misery,” James Majkut told Young, describing how he wrestles with post-traumatic stress disorder and sleeps just a few hours each night. “My baby will never know who his mother was. My oldest son won’t have a mother to watch him graduate. I just ask for the maximum sentence.”
Miraldi could have ordered Young to serve the maximum sentence of eight years in prison, which was the state’s request. Bradley had requested four and a half.
The judge said his job is not choose a sentence that would make the defendant suffer as much as her victims, though he understands that sense of justice. Instead, he must choose a sentence consistent with the law and the outcomes of other cases.
No matter what he decided, it would not restore Debra Majkut to life, Miraldi said: “There’s no happy answer. There’s no happy solution.”
“I wish my power were to turn back the hands of time and make this go away so it never happened,” he later said.
Bradley said the offenses did not carry a mandatory prison term, but when Young entered her guilty plea she knew she would go to prison for at least four and a half years.
“This incident affects her every day as I know it affects the family of the victims, and she’s going to be punished for what happened that day,” he said. Bradley argued that Young did not intentionally commit a crime but acknowledged that she had acted in a way that showed careless disregard for the consequences.
The defense painted the situation as a lesson against distracted driving, saying the case is a reminder to all of us that when we get behind the wheel it means putting all attention on the road.
“I know I’m guilty of sometimes looking at my phone or changing my radio or being distracted by something. Cases like this remind me it could happen to any of us,” he said.
Miraldi said he’d done some soul-searching and easily recalled situations in which he’s been guilty of careless driving as well. “We can control our distractions. No one is forcing us to answer that cell phone or text back,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.