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Dyer man found guilty in fatal hit-and-run crash in Highland

Updated: October 2, 2012 5:23PM



Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell sentenced a Dyer man to four years in an alternative program, followed by four years on probation, for reckless homicide in the death of a 73-year-old driver.

Randolph James Scalzitti, 44, cried throughout most of the hearing and apologized to the family of Lawrence Szafasz, who died two days after the crash.

Deputy prosecutor Michael Toth presented evidence that Scalzitti’s Ford Explorer crashed into the Szafasz’s pickup, which was waiting to make a turn from 45th Avenue onto Delaware Parkway in Highland. The two vehicles became locked together after Scalzitti rear-ended the pickup, pushing it about 300 feet across opposite traffic lanes until it jumped a curb and flattened a tire on the pickup.

Scalzitti fled the scene, leaving Szafasz and his wife critically injured and their pickup smashed against a concrete barrier.

Toth presented photographs showing the airbags had been cut from the Explorer and the inside cleaned when police took custody of it.

Shirley Szafasz said she and her husband had gone out around 7 p.m. Oct. 17, 2010, to look at Halloween decorations. She was hospitalized for six days and suffered nerve damage and a concussion. “I came home a widow,” she said.

Toth argued for an eight-year sentence — six years for reckless homicide and two years for failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious bodily injury in light of Mr. Szafasz’s age and what he described as a “severe and extremely violent” crash.

Defense attorney Paul Stracci said his client, depicted in letters to the judge as compassionate, caring and kind, panicked after the crash. Scalzitti’s mother said her son, who has two young children, has isolated himself and is consumed by guilt.

Boswell said she was troubled by evidence that Scalzitti continued to accelerate and that the airbags had been removed and the car cleaned before Scalzitti surrendered to police the day after the crash.

Boswell imposed a six-year sentence for reckless homicide, with four years in Lake County Community Corrections and two years suspended and served on probation. She also imposed a two-year sentence for leaving the scene, but ordered that time suspended and served on probation. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively. Boswell ordered that Scalzitti pay the victim’s funeral expenses and speak to young people about the dangers of reckless driving.



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