LOCKPORT – Francis A. Maikranz, who left the scene June 18 after his car struck and killed a Niagara Falls woman and injured her son, was sentenced Wednesday to 16 months to 4 years in state prison.
Maikranz, 55, of Whitney Avenue, Niagara Falls, was at the wheel of a car that killed Nicole Rodriguez, 26, as she and her son Christopher Pelfrey, who was 7 at the time, were crossing Hyde Park Boulevard near Jerauld Avenue.
Christopher, now 8, suffered a lacerated kidney and a concussion, his great-grandmother, Dale Davis, said in court.
She and other relatives of the victims demanded the maximum sentence and left unhappy that Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas didn’t impose it.
“If this had happened to my daughter, I would want him in prison for the rest of his life. That’s why families don’t do the sentencings,” Farkas told Dana Rivers, Rodriguez’s mother.
When Maikranz pleaded guilty Jan. 2 to two felonies – leaving the scene of a fatal incident and leaving the scene of a serious personal-injury incident – the judge and attorneys had agreed on a sentencing limit of 2 to 6 years. The most Maikranz could legally have been given was 2∑ to 7 years.
The sentence Farkas chose means that Maikranz will be eligible for parole after serving 16 months.
“This is all such a waste,” Deputy District Attorney Theodore A. Brenner said. “I don’t doubt that Mr. Maikranz is truly remorseful, but with all due respect, he should be. The thought of that [then] 7-year-old boy sitting on the curb watching his mother die is too much to bear.”
Rodriguez was pronounced dead the next night in Erie County Medical Center. She had been unconscious since the incident.
Defense attorney Dominic Saraceno of the county Conflict Defender’s Office said he believes Maikranz’s story that he didn’t know he had hit anyone. He drove home and wasn’t arrested until nine days after the June 18 hit-and-run.
“I can only say with reasonable certainty this accident was not his fault,” Saraceno said.
Saraceno said in an interview that Rodriguez was crossing the street at night and had cocaine metabolites in her system, as well as a blood-alcohol content of .09 percent, above the legal threshold for intoxication.
The defense attorney said Maikranz went home because he thought someone had thrown an object at his car. He said that twice in the past, Maikranz had stopped after someone threw something at his car and was beaten and robbed both times.
That statement brought a laugh from one of Rodriguez’s male relatives, who refused to be interviewed after court.
Dale Rivers, Rodriguez’s stepfather, thought the sentence was unjust.
“I robbed a house when I was 16, but didn’t hurt anyone. I did 36 months upstate. This guy … gets 1∑ to 4. You do the math,” he said.
Saraceno said Maikranz heard news reports about the search for the driver but didn’t turn himself in because the time of the incident and the color of the car reported by police were wrong.
The news reports said the incident occurred at 10:30 p.m., and Maikranz was already home by 10, Saraceno said.
“By the time the news stories became more accurate, the police were at his door,” Saraceno said.
“We wouldn’t be here if I knew what had happened,” Maikranz said. “I couldn’t imagine anything more horrible. … I pray for them every day, multiple times.”
Dana Rivers said she mourned “my baby girl who someone left on the side of the road after hitting her like a piece of garbage.”
She denounced Maikranz as “a well-known drunk in the town we once lived [in].”
But Saraceno said that if this were true, Maikranz would have a longer criminal record than his single violation conviction 30 years ago.
Relatives alleged that Maikranz had parts of his damaged car in his living room. Saraceno said they were in the garage. “He worked as an auto body repairman for 30 years,” Saraceno said. “He was fixing his own car.”