A Texas man doesn’t understand why the mother of his daughter didn’t face enough punishment for crashing her vehicle with their little girl inside, killing the child. It was his former wife’s third DWI offense, yet a plea deal allowed her to escape a prison sentence.
Austin American-Statesman reports that on Sept. 30, 2015, former elementary school teacher Jennifer Zapalac took a fast left turn and ended up crashing her Chevrolet Suburban into a tree on a rural road in Smithville with her 7-year-old daughter, Victoria, inside. According to court documents, Zapalac fled the scene with her daughter still in car, although the little girl was likely already dead at the time. When authorities found Zapalac and tested her blood alcohol level, she registered at 0.211, three times higher than the legal limit.
Zapalac was arrested and charged with felony intoxication manslaughter. It was her third drunk driving offense within three years, yet none of her cases, even the most current one, went to trial. Instead, Zapalac agreed to serve 10 years of probation in exchange for a guilty plea, which also allowed her to keep her teaching license.
Zapalac recently violated her probation and a Bastrop District Judge took a warrant out for her arrest. She now faces up to 20 years in prison for the unspecified violation, whereas, had she obeyed the conditions of her probation, her record would have been wiped clean after 10 years from the time she took the plea deal.
Shawn Zapalac, 50, Jennifer Zapalac’s former husband, said that the punishment she’s receiving is light in comparison to what she did to their daughter.
“I believe my daughter’s death was in vain. She died at 7. For what reason? She didn’t want to die.”
Even Bastrop County District Attorney Brian Goertz was confused at the light punishment Zapalac received, given her long history of drunk driving. Zapalac previously failed to show up to one of her court dates for a previous DWI charge, resulting in a bond forfeture. She also showed up intoxicated to a 2015 DWI court assessment, “so intoxicated that the probation officer could not complete the assessment,” according to court documents.
Shawn said he realized his ex-wife going to trial would have been risky, given an expert witness was prepared to testify that it was possible Zapalac had drinks after the wreck that killed her daughter. Zapalac adamantly denied being drunk when the crash occurred. She told the American-Statesman she was “absolutely not” drunk when the fatal collision occurred, despite her high blood alcohol level.
Meanwhile, Zapalac reportedly started smearing her former husband’s name, although the American-Statesman reports that none of the claims have been substantiated.
Shawn said he’s bringing awareness to his daughter’s story now in hopes that it will help others dealing with alcohol issues before someone else’s loved one ends up dead.
[Feature Photo: Jennifer Zapalac, Victoria Zapalac/Screenshot/Austin American-Statesmen Video]