by Dennis Dalman– email@example.com
Jodi Rajkowski knows all too well the sentencing of the man who caused her husband’s death won’t bring her husband back, but she’s hoping Ron’s death might cause drivers to slow down and not drive foolishly – especially in work zones.
Last week, a Dakota County judge sentenced Kirk Edward Deamos, 23, to 30 days in jail and 200 hours of community service, as well as a fine of $100. Earlier, Deamos, who is from Raymore, Mo., pleaded guilty to one count of careless driving, which is a misdemeanor. The stiffest sentence Deamos could have received was up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and possibly a restitution amount.
On Oct. 13, 2011, Deamos was driving on Hwy. 35W in Burnsville when his car veered to the side into a construction site, striking two workmen and killing them. The workers were Ron Rajkowski, 44, of St. Joseph; and Craig Carlson, 47, of Ramsey.
According to the prosecutor in the case, Deamos could not be charged with a felony for two reasons: He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident and he did not flee the scene. Therefore, gross negligence could not be proved.
The widows of Rajkowski and Carlson (Jodi and Deb), who have become friends, agreed jail time would be rather pointless for Deamos. Instead, they urged the attorneys and the judge to require Deamos to do an increased amount of community service and to either do work with children who have autism or do road work.
“We’d rather have him put in community service by working on roads,” Jodi said. “That might help him understand the dangers those workers (construction workers and law enforcement) have to face every day.”
Rajkowski and Carlson are contacting legislators, urging them to increase penalties for distracted driving, especially in work-zone areas.
“The fines should be doubled,” Jodi said. “These kinds of accidents can happen so quickly and so easily. We are all guilty of sometimes being distracted while driving, but we all have to learn not to do that. These kinds of deadly incidents can happen to any of us – even to someone on the side of the road fixing a tire. We’ve got to realize that.”
Jodi said she firmly believes stricter penalties would have an impact, just as tightened penalties have decreased the rate of drunken driving and increased the use of seatbelts.
“There should be an automatic $1.000 fine for hitting a construction person,” she said.
The two widows are also pushing for enhanced safety features at roadway construction sites, such as more barriers.
“It’s so sad,” Jodi said. “There’s nothing we can do for Ron or Craig, but at least we can try to get something done before it happens to someone else. Those workers out there are doing their jobs and working on our behalf. We should respect that and show it in the way we drive. Those guys shouldn’t have to be afraid to go to work.”
The two women are urging everyone they know and those they meet to contact their state legislators and tell them penalties for reckless or distracted driving in work zones should be increased dramatically.
The Rajkowski sons are “doing well, overall,” Jodi said. Blake is 9, Chase is 7.
“They’re doing OK,” she said, “but their dad should be here, teaching them things, playing baseball with them, learning things, doing things with them. Ron was our best friend. There was nobody else like him. There are still times when I feel so lost and empty. Ron and I knew each other so well we could finish each other’s sentences. There will never, ever be another Ron.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.