AMHERST TWP. — Nearly 2½ years after the tragedy that took the life of his wife and the mother of his two sons, leaving his infant son severely burned and scarred, James Majkut said he felt his family had started getting life on track as they searched for their new normal.
But a few days before Thanksgiving, Majkut learned that the woman driving the car that crashed into his family home in 2015 and killed his wife was seeking early release from prison after serving six months of her 4½-year sentence.
“We’d gotten things back on track,” Majkut said. “It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was hard getting into the swing of things with working 12-hours shifts and raising two boys, but we were doing it. When I got the notice that she filed and wanted out of prison, it just turned everything upside down again.”
On Nov. 17, Adrianna Young, 25, of Oberlin, filed for judicial release from prison. In May, Young was sentenced to 4½ years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, tampering with evidence and possession of marijuana.
The news brought all the grief, anger and frustration bubbling back to the surface for the Majkut family.
“You got a four-year sentence,” Majkut said. “That was a light sentence, and I accepted the fact that you got off light. You think you’re rehabilitated, but there’re still people out here who have to deal with the consequences of your actions daily.”
On July 28, 2015, Young crashed her car into the family’s home while Debra Majkut was sitting in the living room on the couch with her infant son, Jaxon. Debra Majkut was killed in the crash, and Jaxon was trapped underneath Young’s vehicle, suffering burns on his face from the car’s exhaust.
“My baby was 30 seconds away from death, from what the doctors have said,” James Majkut said. “He had fifth- and sixth-degree burns on his face; I’d never heard of such a thing before. He had a hole through his face to his mouth. She almost took two lives.”
James Majkut is now trying to juggle raising his two sons, 14-year-old Jacob and 2-year old Jaxon, and working 12-hour days six or seven days a week in the salt mines under Lake Erie. His mother-in-law comes over every day at 5 a.m. to take care of the boys.
He leaves work every day to pick up Jacob from school and then comes home, cooks dinner, does laundry and tries to keep the family going.
While Majkut talked to a reporter, Jaxon played nearby. At one point, he wandered over wearing a huge grin on his face — he wanted to show off his toy truck. He pointed out buttons on the side that are supposed to light up when pushed and explained it “need battery.”
He then pushed the car and let out a peal of laughter.
He’s like any toddler in those moments, albeit a toddler with visible scars on the left side of his face. He still faces more surgery when he turns 6, which doctors hope will allow the hair on the left side of his head to grow.
That’s the reality that the Majkut family deals with every day, which is why James Majkut can’t understand how Young even has the opportunity to be released early.
“I can’t appeal to get my wife back,” he said. “I can’t appeal. I still have to work every day and pay all the medical bills, funeral costs and everything.”
James Majkut said he’s on thin ice with his job after missing so much work after the crash, in trying to put the pieces of his family’s life back together as best he could.
“I can’t miss any more work,” he said. “If I get sick, I have to go to work. If my kid’s sick, I have to go to work. I have no more (Family and Medical Leave Act); I’m out of help with work.”
A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 4 before county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi on the motion. Majkut said he plans to be there. He’s also asking for help from friends, neighbors and others.
“I just want to reach out to the community and ask people to send letters,” he said. “I want people to send letters here to my house saying that (Young) should have to serve her full sentence.”
James Majkut hopes to be able to carry a box full of letter into the courtroom to show Miraldi how much support he has in the community before a decision is made on the motion for judicial release. He asks that people send the letters to his home at 8788 Leavitt Road, Elyria, 44035.
“I was asking the judge to give her (the maximum sentence of eight years),” he said. “She got a sentence of 4½ years, and didn’t serve a day until two years after the crash. My sentence started the day I got pulled out of the mine and heard about the accident. Her sentence started six months ago.
“I want her to serve the full 4½ years. I have to live with this day in and day out.”
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