RACINE — A Waterford woman who allegedly struck her husband with a car — leaving him severely disabled — was handed a jail sentence Friday.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen on Friday sentenced Terria Rudzinski, 32, of the 600 block of Rohda Drive, to serve one year in the Racine County Jail and seven years on probation.
As part of a plea deal, Rudzinski pleaded no contest to hit-and-run involving great bodily harm and causing injury while operating under the influence, first offense.
The charges stem from a February 2017 incident in which Rudzinski says she accidentally struck her husband with a vehicle after he exited it during an argument. A preliminary breath test by Rudzinski at the time of the incident was calculated to be 0.165, more than twice the legal limit.
Her husband, Jason, was taken by Flight for Life helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa and spent nearly 5½ months in a coma. He is no longer able to care for himself and needs round-the-clock care.
Terria Rudzinski’s jail sentence, which will include Huber release for both work and to care for the couple’s 5-year-old daughter, is set to begin on Dec. 29.
“Issues of fault aside, I have to deal with the reality that the child is partly at least deprived of one parent already,” Nielsen said. “ I’m going to take that child’s (other) parent away from them today. I’m going to lock you (Terria Rudzinski) up, but I think there is some obligation to minimize the damage to this child.”
‘A prisoner in his head’
The family of Jason Rudzinski described him as having a “heart of gold,” and said he was hard working and caring.
“I am very happy that he is alive, but know it kills him, just as much as me, that he is reduced to the mental and physical capacity he is in,” said Eric Rudzinski, Jason’s brother.
Michelle Adelbach, Jason’s mother, who now is her son’s caretaker and guardian, asked the court to consider the extent of her son’s injuries when it came to sentencing.
“He will be living as a prisoner in his head the rest of his life and will need 24-hour care,” Adelbach said. “Why should she be allowed to live day to day with freedoms and choices that have been stripped away from my son because of her actions? Doesn’t seem like justice to me.”
Dispute between families
There was obvious tension in the courtroom between the families of the victim and defendant.
Nielsen referenced materials he had received, likely letters of support from the victim’s family, which may have included derogatory information about Terria Rudzinski.
“I recognize that there are extreme emotions involved here. Jason was both a husband and a son and a brother,” Nielsen said. “His wife has experienced a loss. His mother and brother have experienced a loss. They blame her, justifiably, for that loss.”
Patrick Cafferty, Terria Rudzinski’s attorney, said that Jason’s mother has filed divorce paperwork on behalf of her son, and is currently fighting for custody of the couple’s daughter.
Cafferty also mentioned assertions made by family that Terria Rudzinski had purposely hit her husband.
“People have raised the possibility that she may have struck him intentionally, and there is no evidence to back up that assertion,” Cafferty said.
An emotional Terria Rudzinski also addressed the court, dabbing the tears coming from her eyes with a tissue.
“I love him more than anything. He is my soulmate and my best friend,” she said. “It pains me daily knowing the struggles he has to now deal with the rest of his life. Everyday, I think about the things he is missing out on, especially our daughter, whom we both love.”
Citing her lack of criminal record and employment history, county Assistant District Attorney Dirk Jensen recommended that Rudzinski receive a sentence of one year in jail and seven years of probation for the charges.
“You’ve got a horrific situation committed by somebody who, aside from this situation, does not appear to have any huge major character flaws, to be quite honest with you,” Jensen said.
He noted that Rudzinski needs to address her alcohol and anger issues, and that her actions had massive consequences. “Her actions imploded this family.”
Cafferty also stated that his client has taken responsibility for what she has done and has no criminal record. He asked Nielsen to follow the state’s recommendation, asserting that along with the jail sentence, Terria Rudzinski would be facing enough punishment for her actions.
“The stigma of a felony is certainly a punishment,” Cafferty said. “The emotional damage for herself, her daughter and her family is punishment as well.”
“Issues of fault aside, I have to deal with the reality that the child is partly at least deprived of one parent already. I’m going to take that child’s (other) parent away from them today. I’m going to lock you up, but I think there is some obligation to minimize the damage to this child.” Mark Nielsen, Racine County Circuit Court judge, speaking to defendant Terria Rudzinski