Driver who killed sleeping teen given 12 years

Ismet Sijamhodzic also sentenced to 3 years drug-offender probation

Author: Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Kyle Sieg, Producer, The Morning Show, kyle@wjxt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 04:13:07 PM EST   Updated On: Nov 14 2013 09:04:02 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Duval County Circuit Judge Suzanne Bass sentenced the man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in last year's death of a Wolfson High School student to 12 years in prison and three years supervised probation as a drug offender.

The judge also permanently revoked his driver's license.

Ismet Sijamhodzic, 52, ran a stop sign at the intersection of Kennerly and Barnes Roads early the morning of Aug. 28, 2012. His van left the road and crashed into the bedroom where 17-year-old JaNay Jackson was sleeping. She died at the scene.

Prosecutors say the 52-year-old had marijuana and Xanax in his system when he crashed his van into house.

The maximum sentence for second-degree vehicular homicide was 15 years, but the state said it recommended 12 because Sijamhodzic had no prior criminal history and the family just wanted to move forward.

"The sentencing is what we agreed upon, and I guess, in that sense, (I'm) satisfied," said the victim's father, Gerald Jackson. "But at the same time it does nothing. JaNay is still gone."

"I'm just glad that it's over," said Felicia Jackson, JaNay's mother. "I'm glad I don't have to come back and deal with this any longer because we're dealing with so much. It hurts so much."

In last month's sentencing hearing, the defense called a psychologist and clinical social worker who said Sijamhodzic suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder from time spent in a prison camp during the Bosnian war in 1994.

Customers at the convenience store Sijamhodzic manages testified that he is a kind, helpful and generous man.

His oldest son told the court his father hasn't been the same since the crash; that he's depressed, cries often and wishes he died instead of Jackson.

Sijamhodzic also took the stand and apologized to the Jackson family at that October hearing.

Sijamhodzic admitted paying $50 to his 18-year-old niece for a Xanax pill, which he thought was a pain pill. He also said he did not remember crashing into a car before hitting the Jackson home and to eating pizza in Jackson's bedroom while rescue crews were trying to remove her from between his van and the wall.

Prosecutors also presented victim impact statements at that late-October hearing, including testimony from Jackson's second-grade teacher who described her as a beautiful girl with a bright future.

"I guess because you can't close off that part of your life as much as you try, you try to think that every day you wake up that you'll be better, and it just don't seem to get any better," Felicia Jackson said.

Gerald Jackson said he hopes the sentence will send a message to drivers.

"We definitely have to be mindful of what we do, how we're physically capable as far as driving a motor vehicle or doing anything else," he said. "We have to be responsible and we have to think about our actions."

Dozens of friends and family members joined JaNay's parents in the courtroom, a support system the family says helped them make it through their daughter's death.

But mainly it's their faith, they say, and God's promises that will help them move forward without their daughter.

"That's where, how we keep going," Gerald said. "We look forward to seeing her in a new world being resurrected and being able to enjoy her as we did and even in a better state."