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Channing man gets prison in fatal crash

PAUL ZAKRZEWSKI

IRON MOUNTAIN — A Channing man will spend at least seven years in prison for driving drunk in a December collision on M-95 that a survivor of the crash said “took my son’s father away” before they could ever meet.

Paul Zakrzewski, 67, could serve as many as 22 1/2 years in prison for operating while intoxicated, causing the death of 21-year-old Christian Tousignant on Dec. 2.

Zakrzewski admitted he had been drinking Dec. 2 before he headed south on M-95, losing control of his vehicle in Sagola Township and crossing the center line before colliding with the Tousignant’s vehicle, according to the criminal complaint.

Tousignant and his 21-year-old pregnant fiancée were taken to U.P. Health System-Marquette, where he later died from his injuries.

Defense attorney Jessica Bray said Tuesday in Dickinson County Circuit Court that Zakrzewski made no excuses for his actions, adding the pain from injuries he sustained in the crash reminded him of his guilt daily.

Tousignant’s family detailed Tuesday how the crash didn’t just take a life but deprived his now-infant son of ever knowing his father.

Tousignant’s fiancée — in a letter read by Victims’ Rights Advocate Connie Larson — said Tousignant saw Zakrzewski lose control of his truck and moved as far aside as quickly as possible to take the brunt of the impact himself, sparing her as best he could.

“You took my son’s father away,” the fiancée wrote.

Tousignant’s father said while Zakrzewski’s sentence would not bring his son back to life, it was important he be punished. Zakrzewski made a conscious decision to drink and drive, the man said, equating the act to pointing and firing a pistol at someone.

Dickinson County Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Richards said Tousignant’s death was a tragedy but not an accident. To call it one was a gross and offensive mischaracterization, Richards said.

“Dec. 2 will be my personal day of infamy,” Zakrzewski said, adding he frequently asks God why he was spared while Tousignant died. Zakrzewski hoped Tousignant’s family can forgive him in time.

“These are the types of cases we dread seeing more than any other,” Circuit Court Judge Mary Barglind said. “These are the types of cases we warn people about.”

Barglind hoped that Zakrzewski’s sentence would give others pause before driving while intoxicated.

“He is not a five-time loser,” Barglind said. “This is his first drunk-driving conviction.”

Operating while intoxicated causing death is a felony punishable by 15 years in prison, but because Zakrzewski was on probation in Iron County for possession of a loaded firearm in a vehicle at the time of the crash, he was charged as a habitual offender-second, increasing the maximum penalty 1 1/2 times.

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