Gorbonosenko guilty of OWI in fatal crash
MICHIGAN CITY – The former paramedic who killed a La Porte couple in a drunk driving crash last year was removed from the courthouse in handcuffs Monday after the jury delivered four guilty verdicts.
After three days of witness testimony and four hours of jury deliberation in La Porte Superior Court 1, Tron E. Gorbonosenko was convicted of two felony counts each of reckless homicide and operating while intoxicated causing death.
The jury delivered verdicts of “not guilty” on two counts of OWI with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent causing death, and the two lesser-included counts of OWI with a BAC of 0.08 percent causing death.
Facing up to 24 years in prison, Gorbonosenko will return to court for argued sentencing on Dec. 13.
Judge Michael Bergerson entered conviction on the two reckless homicide charges and took the guilty verdicts on the two OWI charges under advisement.
He noted the OWI counts may be included under the reckless homicide charges, and could be sentenced concurrently – for a maximum potential penalty of 12 years.
The state presented evidence showing that about 90 minutes before Gorbonosenko caused the crash that killed Donald and Angela Kaczmarek, a bystander at a martial arts school in downtown La Porte called 911 to report he suspected Gorbonosenko had been driving drunk.
The three La Porte City Police officers who responded ultimately allowed Gorbonosenko, who was off duty from his job as a paramedic with La Porte County EMS, to leave the scene in his Ford Mustang.
Each of the officers testified they sensed no signs of impairment.
However, at least two civilians at the martial arts school that day told the jury they could smell alcohol on Gorbonosenko – as did several first responders who encountered Gorbonosenko at the crash scene on U.S. 20 just east of Bootjack Road.
A crash reconstructionist testified the incident was only the second time he had ever seen two vehicles collide “headlamp to headlamp” in a way that caused both to stop in their tracks, with little recoil.
He said the modules extracted from Gorbonosenko’s vehicle show the brakes in the Mustang were never activated, and that it was traveling between 56 and 61 mph at the time of impact.
A forensic toxicologist testified that a blood draw taken at the hospital more than three hours after the crash showed Gorbonosenko’s BAC at 0.12 percent.
She estimated that, depending on Gorbonosenko’s rate of elimination, his BAC at the time of the crash would have been somewhere between 0.15 and 0.23.
And she noted he had lorazepam in his bloodstream, despite not having had a prescription for the Schedule IV drug.
Donald Kaczmarek’s tox screen, performed because he was driving the Honda Odyssey that Gorbonosenko’s Mustang hit, came back negative for alcohol or drugs known to cause impairment.
An autopsy showed the man suffered a severed spine, fractured skull, punctured lungs, broken ribs, lacerated liver and left kidney, and various external injuries as a result of the crash. The pathologist said the spinal injury would have caused instant death, and the fracture at the base of the skull is almost always fatal.
Angela Kaczmarek suffered external injuries as well as a broken neck, which the deputy coroner said likely was her fatal injury.
The Kaczmareks owned Packman’s Family Pizzeria in La Porte, and were on their way back to the restaurant after delivering a pizza in New Carlisle when the crash occurred.