October 20, 2014

Elyria
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Man gets 6 years for killing nurse

ELYRIA — The family of Terri Martin, killed in a March 2, 2012, car crash isn’t happy with the six-year-prison sentence handed down to Royce Kowalczyk, the man responsible for her death.

“(Expletive) you, Royce!” Martin’s daughter, Miranda Rector, called out as Kowalczyk was led from the courtroom. “You’re going to get yours in prison!”

Owen Martin, Terri Martin’s husband, said after the hearing that his family came to Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi’s courtroom seeking justice and didn’t get it.

“Six years is nothing,” he said.

Martin, an officer with the Lorain County Drug Task Force, also pointed out that judges are elected and warned people that Kowalczyk would get back behind the wheel of a car when he’s released from prison despite Miraldi banning him from driving for the rest of his life.

The sentence also covered an unrelated drug possession case and another DUI case.

Kowalczyk, 27, had cocaine and marijuana in his system when his 2000 Ford Explorer veered left of center on Colorado Avenue in Sheffield and struck Terri Martin’s Saab 9-7X head on. A second woman in a third car also was injured in the crash but survived.

 

Kowalczyk pleaded guilty in December to charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, possession of drugs, DUI and willful and wanton disregard of safety.

Rector said Kowalczyk has never truly taken responsibility for his actions and that even as Kowalczyk was being extricated from the Explorer, which came to rest on top of a guardrail, he was texting on his phone.

Rector said her mother was her best friend and they shared vacations and a profession. Both were nurses.

With her voice breaking with emotion, Rector also described how she was working when her family came to tell her what had happened, and she eventually went to the morgue to identify her mother’s body. She said she couldn’t believe that her mother was gone and even checked for a pulse.

“I hugged her, and she didn’t hug me back for the first time in the 29 years of my life,” Rector said.

At the time of the crash, Kowalczyk was free on bond in the unrelated drug possession case and had applied for intervention in lieu of conviction. If he had been accepted and completed the program successfully, he would have allowed that case to be dropped.

But between the time of the crash that claimed Terri Martin’s life and when he was finally jailed, Kowalczyk was involved in two additional crashes. Rector called him a “selfish and worthless person” who had already used up his second chance.

“He spit on you and the justice system,” she told Miraldi.

Kowalczyk apologized for his actions during the hearing.

“I am not asking for forgiveness, because I know forgiveness is impossible,” he said.

His mother, Margaret Kowalczyk, pleaded for mercy before Miraldi handed down the sentence. She said her son had been raised to take responsibility for his mistakes that he was torn apart by what he did.

His attorneys asked Miraldi to consider the case of Mark Ralich, who received seven years in prison for killing 18-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Vincent in a November 2010 car crash in which Ralich was trying to avoid police.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo, who also urged a lengthy prison sentence, said the Ralich case had nothing to do with Kowalczyk.

Miraldi, who wasn’t involved in the Ralich case, said he had to look at each case that came before him individually.

“You should have been the victim, not Terri Martin. … That would have been justice,” Miraldi told Kowalczyk.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.