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Shock and Anger After Defendant in Fatal DWI Accident Avoids State Pen

There is anger and shock after Patrick McCormick gets one year in jail and five years probation after an August 2011 crash that killed a Creve Coeur teacher.

Patrick McCormick, 55, of Chesterfield was sentenced to one year in St. Louis County Jail Friday by Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Prebil. McCormick pleaded guilty to driving into Janet Esrock's car

Esrock was a popular teacher at in Creve Coeur.

The one-year jail sentence was for a second-degree assault charge. Esrock's son Jonathan was also seriously injured in the accident.

McCormick was also initially given five years in prison on the manslaughter charge, but the sentence was suspended and he was placed on five years probation.

McCormick also must seek alcohol counseling and wear an alcohol monitoring SCRAM bracelet for one year after his release from jail.

‘I see her every day’

McCormick and Chuck Esrock made statements before the sentencing.

McCormick apologized to the family and said he agonizes over the crash and frequently dreams about Janet and Jonathan Esrock.

“I see her every day in one form or another,” he said.

“I have a heartfelt and deep emotional feeling of guilt of everything I’ve done,” McCormick said.

'I miss my wife'

Esrock, who spoke first, said he agonized over what to say and only decided on Aug. 2, his wife’s birthday.

He described getting a midnight phone call and listening to a doctor detail his wife and son’s injuries.

“I quickly realized my life had been changed forever,” he said.

Esrock talked about the hole left by his wife’s absence among his family, friends and Whitfield School, and the hardship they’ve, faced including his father-in-law’s stroke and his son Jonathan’s struggle to recover from his injuries.

“I will tell you I worry about my children,” Esrock said. “But more than anything, I miss my wife.”

Friends of the Esrock family reacted angrily to what they said was a very light sentence.

'What a life is worth'

“Judge Prebil just told everyone in St. Louis that it is OK to drink and drive,” said Sue Ferguson, who said she was Chuck Esrock’s employer and a family friend. Chuck Esrock is Janet’s husband. “And if you kill someone, you serve nine months and 13 days in jail. That’s what a life is worth.”

Prebil said he’d received 40 to 50 letters about the case, including some from both the Esrock and McCormick families.

“To say that Janet Esrock was an amazing person seems like an understatement,” Prebil said.

He said that Chuck Esrock pointed out there was no way to undo the great harm done.

“It’s a very difficult decision, but I have to take into consideration the injury done to this family, and also the other side: Mr. McCormick and what type of man he has been to this point and do the best I can to make a correct judgment,” Prebil said.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said prosecutors recommended seven years in prison.

“We’re very disappointed in the sentence,” McCulloch said. “With conduct this egregious, he should go to the penitentiary for it. At the time of the accident, he was more than double the legal limit (for blood-alcohol content).”

He said typically sentences under a year are served in county jail rather than the state correctional facilities.

McCulloch said these types of cases the most difficult and are emotional for everyone involved.

Typically, a prisoner will serve nine months and 13 days on a on a one-year sentence.

Ferguson said, “The family is in shock. They’re upset. We all are.”

McCormick's attorney, N. Scott Rosenblum, was asked by reporters if he thought his client got off easy.

He replied, "That's not for me to decide. You heard the judge. The judge has considered everything.  He is a very, very thorough, thoughtful jurist. That's for everybody else to decide, that's not for me to decide."

Esrock family members did not comment on Friday's sentence other than one remark from her brother as he left the courtroom.

"There is nothing that we can say that's going to bring my sister back," he stated.

Michele August 18, 2012 at 01:32 PM
What if it had been the judges wife -do you think the sentence would have been harsher ? You bet it would have! My heart breaks for this family -remember this moronic judge next time elections come up on the judge.

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