A jury spared David Zielinski a possible life sentence without the chance of parole, but the sentencing judge Tuesday all but ensured the man who killed his estranged wife’s boyfriend will never leave prison.
Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks handed Zielinski, 34, a life sentence with the possibility of parole after he serves 57 years. She gave him the maximum terms for murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, and felonious assault, then stacked four three-year firearms specifications on top of those.
“That’s a life sentence,” Lindsay Navarre, an assistant county prosecutor, said after the sentencing. “He would be 91 years old before he first even reached a parole board.”
The jury chose not to convict Zielinski on a more serious charge of aggravated murder, which required the state prove the killing was purposeful and planned. That charge carries a possible life sentence without parole, while murder carries a sentence of life with parole eligibility after 15 years.
Zielinski, of 3859 Berkey Southern Rd., shot Michael Jackson, 20, of Toledo, six times early on the morning of July 14 after climbing through a window of the West Central Avenue home of his now ex-wife, Amber Hayes. Armed with a 40-caliber handgun and a large knife, Zielinski went upstairs where the two were in bed, shot Mr. Jackson, forced Ms. Hayes downstairs and to her car at gunpoint, and later shot at her car eight times as she tried to drive away from him.
“The beauty of physical evidence is that it does not lie,” Judge Franks told Zielinski. "The trajectory of the wound tracks in this case, the testimony of the coroner in this case don’t support your statement under oath.”
Zielinski took the stand during his four-day trial, telling the jury he did not plan to kill anyone that night but went to the house to remove Mr. Jackson from the couple’s home. He said he poked Mr. Jackson in the leg with his knife, that Mr. Jackson cut him in the leg, and that a physical struggle ensued. Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, a deputy Lucas County coroner, testified that the autopsy revealed no signs of a struggle, that the six gunshots were inflicted in rapid succession.
“Your violence, your rage, your not being a man but a coward — sneak in the night and take his life — and then proceed to tell the wife, ‘I’m a real man.’ Not so,” Judge Franks told Zielinski.
Zielinski claimed during a long and confusing statement to the court that he had gotten a phone call on the morning of July 13 from someone asking if something was wrong with Ms. Hayes.
“I didn’t want to go home that night. I didn’t know if something was wrong with her or the kids,” Zielinski said, referring to Ms. Hayes’ two children, who were not in the house when the break-in and murder occurred. "I can’t explain myself. There’s no reason for the actions. I got up there and told you guys how it was.”
He denied being a racist, as he said some have alleged, and said prosecutors and the media have maligned him throughout the case and trial.
“They made me look like this jealous monster,” he said. “That’s not me.”
Defense attorney Mark Geudtner said Zielinski will appeal his conviction and sentence.
By Jennifer Feehan - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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