It must have felt like a knife twisting in James Majkut’s heart.
Two nightmarish years after his wife’s death, he watched as the person responsible — 26-year-old Adrianna Young — was set free.
Judge James Miraldi was obviously conflicted Thursday as he granted release to Young, who had served only about eight months of her four-and-a-half-year sentence for the 2015 death of Debra Majkut.
“I just can’t… I can’t believe that six months would actually be on the table for early release,” James Majkut said, his voice full of anger and frustration. “Four years was a slap in the face as it is and I accept that. But you did something, you did a horrible thing. You took my wife, my kids’ mother.”
He lashed out at defense attorney Jack Bradley: “It’s outrageous how you can sleep with yourself at night.”
As Majkut spoke, his toddler son Jaxon crawled on the courtroom floor. The small boy’s face bears angry red scars from the burns he suffered when Young crashed into the family’s home on Rt. 58 in Amherst Township.
Early on the morning of July 28, 2015, Young sent her car careening off the road, across the Majkuts’ yard, and into the air, smashing through the wall of the family’s home. Debra and Jaxon were trapped underneath.
The mother was crushed to death, while Jaxon’s face was seared against the hot exhaust pipe of Young’s vehicle.
Young, of Oberlin, pleaded guilty in May to counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, possession of marijuana, and tampering with evidence.
“I’ve done my six months. I’ve got the rest of my life to do time with thinking about her actions,” James Majkut said with tears in his eyes. “My poor baby — look at his face. He’s got to get a hair transplant. This kid is not even old enough to understand.”
Miraldi was apparently required to honor an agreement to free Young if the prison warden noted her good behavior.
“This is the hardest day I’ve ever spent on the bench, and I don’t know that I’ll ever have a harder one,” he said.
Lorain County assistant prosecutor Christopher Pierre showed hundreds of letters received from local residents asking for Young to remain behind bars and swearing her release would be an insult to justice.
Miraldi explained that many of the writers’ arguments were based on the idea that Young was high at the time of the crash.
But the evidence presented in his courtroom never proved she was under the influence, Miraldi said. The prosecution admitted it could not prove she was high despite “trace amounts” of marijuana in her system.
A toxicology report showed Young had about 22 times more THC in her system than would be allowed for drivers in Colorado, where recreational pot is legal.
Yet Miraldi said there was no evidence she had used marijuana that day.
Young was released but other components of her sentencing remain in place.
Her driver’s license remains revoked for life; she must meet with community control officers regularly and undergo random drug and alcohol testing; and she must perform more than 200 hours of community service — the equivalent of 25 eight-hour work days.
James Majkut said he forgave Young but could not understand how she was set free.
His voice rose as he faced Miraldi and Bradley: “This is justice. This is what justice is all about — going to prison for things you’ve done wrong.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.