NANCY POWELL ¦ Staff Writer
André Kaczynski(Oct. 12, 2012) Sobs could be heard in the courtroom last Friday as the man responsible for the December crash that left a toddler severely brain damaged was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Judge Thomas C. Groton III said he had thought André Kaczynski was remorseful for what he did to Ava DelRicco and her family, but then rescinded that idea when he took into account Kaczynski’s history of drinking while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and crashing.
“You were an accident waiting to happen,” Groton told the 48-year-old Ocean Pines man in Circuit Court in Snow Hill.
State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby recounted what had happened on Coastal Highway in Ocean City on the afternoon of Dec. 16, 2011.
Ann Marie DelRicco of Selbyville, Del., was in Ocean City to buy stamps so she could mail Christmas cards. She was stopped in her Lexus at the red light at 142nd Street after buying French fries for 18-month-old Ava, who was in a child’s car seat attached to the back seat. Kaczynski was in his pickup truck, but after smoking PCP while driving over the Route 90 bridge, he didn’t really know where he was or what he was doing.
A traffic reconstructionist would determine later that Kaczynski was driving at least 90 miles per hour and made no attempt to slow down before striking Del- Ricco’s Lexus.
“In an instant, everything changed,” Oglesby said.
DelRicco suffered a life-threatening carotid artery injury and a broken wrist. Her daughter was critically injured. She had a skull fracture and her brain swelled.
Her father, George DelRicco, read from his written impact statement that he “felthelpless”aftergettinga3p.m.telephone call from Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, where his daughter was stabilized before being transferred to a hospital in Baltimore.
A surgeon told him that if her brain kept swelling, Ava would die. A part of her skull was removed as a result.
“For the next three days, she battled for her life” George DelRicco said.
One week later, an MRI revealed that Ava would never be able to see, eat or breathe on her own, he said.
“Ava’s life will never be normal,” Del- Ricco said.
Overcome with emotion, DelRicco was unable to continue so Oglesby finished reading his statement that said Ava will never have a best friend and will not see a sunset or a rainbow because of her severe brain damage.
Ann Marie DelRicco recalled how Ava had been a “true bright light,” but no more.
“We miss our baby Ava as we once knew her,” DelRicco said.
DelRicco described her life as lonely and said that the “special needs world is very demanding.” She takes Ava to the hospital three times each week for therapy. She feeds her through a feeding tube, gets up during the night to check her breathing and to turn her because Ava is unable to turn her body on her own.
“I miss her so much,” she said of the daughter she once had.
When it came to his turn to speak, Kaczynski said he “had no idea it was that bad” and “sorry is not going to be good enough.” He told the judge he was “done with drugs” and did not even want to drive anymore.
In August, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to two counts of causing life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, two counts of possession of PCP, driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, aggressive driving, reckless driving, failing to control speed to avoid a collision, speeding and possession of marijuana.
Kaczynski had four prior convictions for driving under the influence and one prior conviction of driving while impaired. In 1994, he was involved in a crash after smoking marijuana and in 2005, he crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer after smoking marijuana.
“He drinks, does drugs and drives and then crashes,” said Oglesby, who asked for the maximum sentence of 21 years, noting the DelRiccos were “sentenced to a life of hardship.”
Groton told Kaczynski that his “wakeup call” should have been when he crashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer, “but you continued to have drug and alcohol problems and you continued to drive.” He also told Kacynski, who said he took PCP to relieve a back problem, that because of his addiction, he had turned the DelRicco’s life upside down.
Their daughter had gone from being a vibrant toddler to a sightless child who had “the mind of a 4-month-old” and who could moan and make noises, but that was all.
“She will miss out on all the great memories of life,” he read from George DelRicco’s letter to the court.
Groton then sentenced Kaczynski to 15 years in prison, with all but 10 years suspended.