This story has been edited to reflect the correct spelling of Brandtson Avenue.
ELYRIA — Mark Ralich is scheduled to be released from prison today after serving a seven-year sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide in connection with a 2010 crash that killed 18-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Vincent.
“We knew the day was going to come, but it seems like it just popped up there,” A.J.’s mother, Jean Vincent, said. “It makes us sick to our stomach. At least when he was in there, we had a little peace of mind that we wouldn’t have to run into him or see him anywhere.”
Ralich, 29, was behind the wheel of a Chevy Malibu when the car slammed into A.J. Vincent’s Ford Focus at the intersection of Brandtson Avenue and Poplar Street about 1:30 a.m. Nov. 27, 2010.
“It happened right outside our home,” Jean Vincent said. “I was putting the Christmas tree up when I heard the crash. I went running out there and looked at (Ralich’s) car first. All he said was ‘I f----d up.’ He was conscious and said, ‘I f----d up.’ That’s all he said. We didn’t know whose fault it was, at the time.”
According to prosecutors, Ralich had a blood-alcohol content of 0.23, almost three times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, at the time of the crash. He also had marijuana and cocaine in his system, but the tests didn’t indicate how long before the crash the drugs were taken or if Ralich was still under the influence of them when the crash occurred.
A.J. Vincent had marijuana in his system, but, as with Ralich, the tests didn’t tell investigators whether he was under the influence of the drugs when the crash happened.
Ralich told police he had three double shots of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and Coke and two 22-ounce beers at an Elyria bar before the crash. The prosecutor said the speedometer reached 93 mph moments before the crash.
“We knew it was bad; we just didn’t know how bad,” Jean Vincent said. “They sent us to (MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland), and the police called us on our way there and told us to turn around and go to the hospital (in Elyria). (A.J.) had passed, and they never put him on the helicopter.”
Since that night in November 2010, the lives of A.J. Vincent’s family have forever changed.
“You always feel sorry for people when you hear people lost a child, but when it happens to you, it’s different,” Jean Vincent said. “It was my only son. It was my daughter’s only brother, my granddaughter’s only uncle. She’ll never have cousins. It’s just not fair. It has literally killed us and ripped our whole family apart.”
Jean Vincent’s sister, Bobby Spencer, said she’s seen a difference.
“(Jean) was always enthusiastic about doing things,” Spencer said. “It’s like there was a light, but now it’s gone. When I see my sister, it’s not the same sister I had. I had this sister all these years, and then this happened. I physically have this sister, but it’s like this bright light in her got put out, and there’s always this heaviness that she carries.”
Jean Vincent said in her experience time doesn’t heal. Her daughter, Tonya Vincent, agrees.
“The pain is always there; you just learn to deal with it,” Tonya Vincent said. “Time helps you deal with it. You find mechanisms to cope, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Spencer said the family now dreads holidays, which was something that used to bring them a lot of joy and happiness.
Tonya Vincent said the family still struggles with simple, everyday things, such as driving at night, out of fear that they may come across the path of a drunken driver.
The Vincent family said it would be easier to deal with Ralich’s release from prison if they felt he’d changed from the incident or was sorry for what he’d done. Instead, they feel that he believes he did nothing wrong.
“He was so disrespectful in court. He laughed at us. He waved at us,” Jean Vincent said. “He never apologized. This is a man that had not a drop of remorse — not a drop. No one from his family has ever reached out to us.
“If you believe you did nothing wrong, then you’re never going to get better. I believe to this day that he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong.”
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