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'No bitterness, anger or hatred'

Victim's family forgives man sentenced Wednesday in death of Waynesboro mother of nine

February 01, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • "There's no bitterness, anger of hatred. It's a sadness on both sides. I feel bad for him ... because he could be my son," David Clement told reporters after David Michael Szumigala's sentencing.
By Jennifer Fitch, Staff Writer

CHAMBESBURG, Pa. — A Mississippi man was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in a state prison for a March 17, 2011, vehicle crash that killed a Waynesboro, Pa., mother of nine children.

Emotions ran high in the courtroom, where the defendant, spectators and court employees alike were crying.

“I want to apologize to not only the family, but everyone for my irresponsible actions. I’m deeply disturbed by the damage I’ve done,” David Michael Szumigala said.

Szumigala, 21, pleaded guilty Nov. 30, 2011, to third-degree murder in the high-speed crash that caused fatal injuries for 45-year-old Judithann “Judy” Clement. Her husband, David, and some of their children wrote letters to the judge expressing forgiveness.

“There’s no bitterness, anger or hatred. It’s a sadness on both sides. I feel bad for him ... because he could be my son,” David Clement told reporters.

Early in the sentencing hearing, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Shawn Meyers expressed frustration related to a report from jail officials saying Szumigala was involved in several incidents. Meyers said he thought a full hearing would be appropriate to decide if the plea agreement’s 12- to 24-year sentence was suitable.

“There is a significant history of misconduct the court was not aware of when he was in our county jail. ... The conduct, on its face, shows no respect for authority,” Meyers said.

Defense attorney Mark Bayley said he believes all the incidents occurred before the guilty plea. Assistant District Attorney Jeremiah Zook said he thought sentencing Wednesday would aid the victim’s family in closure — to which David Clement agreed.
“Maybe the biggest man in this courtroom today is David (Szumigala), accepting responsibility for his actions,” David Clement told the judge.

Meyers offered the Clement family his sympathy and addressed Szumigala before imposing the sentence.

“The idea they offer to the court is the sense they are hopeful you are going to move beyond this event, to follow a different path in life, and ultimately be a positive influence in our community that’s also somehow tied to faith. This court is required to ensure you are appropriately punished and sentenced for the act for the sake of the community and the commonwealth and all citizens,” Meyers said.

The court clerk had to adjust her computer system to bypass a common sentencing term that the defendant not have contact with the victim’s family. Instead, David Clement said he visited Szumigala in jail before, found healing in the experience and would consider visiting him again.

The two men encountered each other the night of the accident when David Clement briefly turned his attention from his wife, whom he said was fighting to breathe, to pray for Szumigala as he writhed on a sidewalk.

Judy Clement was driving a Dodge Grand Caravan behind her husband’s vehicle when the midnight collision occurred at the intersection of Grant and West Main streets. Moments earlier, Szumigala was involved in a 120-mph police pursuit that resulted in a crash on Beck’s Curve.

David Clement said he remembers a car rushing past before the sounds of impact. He stopped his vehicle and hurried back to the scene.

“I knew in my mind it was Judy’s car. ... I felt like I was moving through a debris field,” he said.

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David Clement stayed with his wife of 25 years until emergency responders asked him to give them more room. That is when he saw Szumigala on the ground in his own anguish.

“I looked at him, knowing exactly of who caused this, ... and I said a prayer (for him), even though I had said a million already for Judy,” David Clement said.

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