Niagara Gazette

March 6, 2013

Hit-and-run aftermath

by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A Niagara Falls man who admitted to driving the vehicle that struck and killed 26-year-old Nicole Rodriguez and injured her then-7-year-old son before leaving the scene will serve jail time for the crime.

Francis Maikranz, 55, 2238 Whitney Ave., was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in state prison by Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas Wednesday. He was also ordered to pay more than $3,000 in fines and surcharges.

Her decision left some of Rodriguez's gathered family members visibly upset as they left the courtroom.

"It's just ridiculous," said Dale Rivers, step-father of Rodriguez who lost her life a day after being struck in a crosswalk on Hyde Park Boulevard at Jerauld Avenue at 10 p.m. June 18. Maikranz failed to stop or report the accident, instead driving home and fixing the damaged windshield himself. "I don't care what you say, in an accident like that, you don't just fix the car yourself. There's blood, there's guts."

Rodriguez's son, now-8-year-old Christopher Pelfrey, has since recovered from a lacerated kidney and a concussion suffered when the impact knocked him out of his shoes and sent him flying to the curb, according to relatives.

Farkas previously agreed to a sentence of no more than 2 to 6 years as part of Maikranz taking a plea deal in January, when he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a fatality accident without reporting it and leaving the scene of a serious injury accident without reporting it.

Given the opportunity to speak, Maikranz expressed regret over the incident and said he'd forever live with the tragedy's effects.

"At the time, I had no idea what had happened," he told the judge prior to learning his sentence. "I can't express my sorrow. I can't imagine anything more horrible. I don't have the correct words."

His attorney throughout the proceedings, Dominic Saraceno, also spoke about his client, explaining Maikranz suffers from several medical conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by two separate attacks he's faced in situations similar to the accident this past June.

Those experiences, he said, factored in to Maikranz's decision to not stop or check the scene.

"Having worked this case and gotten to know (Maikranz) for the last six months ... I can reasonably say ...the reason he didn't stop was because he didn't see anyone in the roadway," Saraceno said. "He thought someone had thrown something at his car. I've spoken to this man and truly believe this is why he didn't stop."

In addition to her son, Rodriguez also had a 3-year-old daughter, who will grow up with little memory of her mother, according to Rodriguez's mother, Dana Rivers.

Having the children grow up without their mother, she said, coupled with losing her daughter, has pushed her past a breaking point, Rivers told the court before sentencing.

"This man has broken me," she said before holding up pictures of the children. "The pain he has caused me is heartbreaking. No parent should have to bury their 26-year-old child. No child should have to grow up without her mommy."