Monday, January 18, 2010

Sins of the Father

...He does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. Exodus 34:7

On January 14, 2010 I saw this truth played out in the 2-hour sentencing hearing of Benedict Krawczak, age 30, in Judge Wallis' Orange County courtroom.

Krawczak was charged with 1st Degree Murder and Aggravated Child Abuse in the May 2007 shaken-baby syndrome death of his girlfriend's thirteen month old daughter, Willow Brady. Krawczak pled to 2nd degree murder in September and Assistant State Attorney Linda Burdick dropped the child abuse charge in exchange for the plea. There was no agreement as to what the sentence would be, except that the State would not seek more than 40 years.

The hearing began with testimony from the defendant's father, Ken Krawczak, phoned in from Michigan. Dad requested leniency from the court and asserted that if anything happened to the child, it was entirely accidental. He testified that Benedict sought out relationships with women who had children because he loved children so much.

It's been my experience that many abusers intentionally seek women with children because the mother often welcomes the assistance that a man offers (financial, emotional, and in caring for the children). The more dependent upon him that they become, the more able he is to control the family.

The elder Krawczak stated that his son had been hospitalized as a teenager for mental health issues because he had problems with authority figures. Burdick's cross examination of Mr. Krawczak demonstrated not only that he was out of touch with his son's life, but that he had been abusive to his son when Benedict was a child - admitting to having spanked and slapped him. He also admitted that the Michigan counterpart to DCF had been called against him when Benedict was a child, as well as against Benedict when he became an adult. He had no knowledge of his son's 19 documented incidents of misbehavior and violence since his incarceration in Orange County. His last visit with his son occurred prior to his arrest in May, 2007.

Defense Counsel Michael Nielson presented seven letters from family and friends to the Court. All of the writers extolled his virtues and asserted that he was not a violent person. Yet from what I could see, no friends, nor anyone from his family, was in attendance. Psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Danzinger took the stand and based his expert testimony upon an interview with defendant and medical records from the last of three residential treatment facilities to which Benedict had been hospitalized at ages 6 (for 2 years), 11 (for a year) and 15 (for 18 months). After lengthy testimony, Danzinger ultimately recommended that the defendant requires a structured setting and medication because "when not controlled, he will engage in dangerous, problematic behavior."

In addition to the abuse to which the elder Krawczak admitted, Benedict testified that his first two hospitalizations followed attempts to commit suicide. At age 6, by hanging. At age 11, by cutting his wrists. He said, "I've had things happen to me all my life." He recounted that his father had beaten him with a 2x4 when he was 9 years old. Between the ages of 9 and 15 he was bounced back and forth between his parents' homes. At age 17 he was homeless. He subsequently spent five years in a Michigan prison for theft charges and moved to Florida in January, 2007 at age 27 - just a few months before Willow's death.

Yes indeed, things have happened to him all his life.

Yet he is now an adult and must be held accountable for his actions. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as though his father ever was held accountable for his own.

Heart-wrenching testimony from Willow's great-grandmother, great-aunt, and mother told two tales.

One was of the family's grief over the loss of this baby. And how her older brothers, ages 4 and 9, are coping poorly with having witnessed the defendant's actions that fateful day. Her great-aunt summed up the loss by testifying about how much she enjoyed playing with Willow and that "now all we have is an urn." Her mother shared that Willow died on Mother's Day and that she never heard her say "Mommy."

The other tale emphasized how the defendant parented the children. Willow's great-grandmother testified that Krawczak treated all three children sternly - sometimes forcing the boys to sleep on the floor. Her mother testified that DCF once investigated an allegation that "I do not listen to my parents" was written on one son's forehead.

Prosecutor Linda Burdick reminded Judge Wallis of the severity of the child's injuries by having him review the photos. She argued that the baby was not merely shaken, but held by her ankles, grabbed by her face, bruises were on her torso and back, and strangulation marks were noted on her neck. She agreed that his intent was not to kill, but to silence her cries. She emphasized the defendant's lengthy history of acting violently when he doesn't get his way and indicated that it makes sense to "warehouse" him until he's old enough to no longer be a danger to others.

The minimum guidelines called for a sentence of 21years & 2 months.

Judge Wallis sentenced Krawczak to 28 years in the Department of Corrections and ordered him to serve 5 years of probation upon his release.

Tragically, this young man grew up in an obviously abusive home. Even more tragically, a baby is dead because he never learned how to deal with others in an effective manner.

Thankfully he won't be able to seek relationships with another woman with children for a long time to come. Let's hope the generational curse ends here.

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