Driver who killed sleeping teen apologizes during sentencing hearing

Ismet Sijamhodzic drove his van into JaNay Jackson's bedroom

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After hours of testimony in a sentencing hearing Tuesday, the man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in last year's death of a Wolfson High School student will have to wait until Nov. 14 to learn how long he will spend in prison.

Ismet Sijamhodzic 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 Sijamhodzic, 52, had marijuana and the anti-anxiety medication Xanax in his system that night. He told investigators he had not slept in the previous three days before the crash.

At Tuesday's 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. He's depressed, cries often and wishes he died instead of Jackson.

Sijamhodzic also took the stand and apologized to the Jackson family -- as he did the day two months ago that he pleaded guilty.

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, 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 JaNay's bedroom while rescue crews were trying to remove her from between his van and the wall.

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

After several hours of testimony, Judge Suzanne Bass said she will review all the statements and evidence and announce a sentence next month.

Sijamhodzic faces nine to 15 years in prison.