Woman sentenced in nail-painting accident

July 22, 2010 9:39:58 PM PDT
Lora Hunt was sentenced Thursday to 18 months of "periodic" prison in a distracted driving case that led to a deadly accident.

The judge sentenced Lora Hunt to 18 months in jail and 30 months probation. While announcing the sentence, the judge said that distracted driving in our society is becoming an epidemic.

The jail term is periodic, meaning Hunt will be able get out for work and therapy.

Hunt was convicted of reckless homicide in the death of motorcyclist Anita Zaffke in May 2009.

Hunt spoke at the sentencing hearing. She said she suffers deep pain over Zaffke's death. Police say the mother of five from Morris was painting her nails when she struck and killed a motorcyclist in the northern suburbs.

Anita Zaffke was sitting on her bike, stopped at a Lake Zurich intersection, when Hunt's car hit her from behind.

After the accident, Zaffke's son, Greg, painted his nails to call attention to the need for tougher laws to protect motorcyclists.

The defense said that she paid an emotional price and should get community service. The prosecution said she should get the maximum, five years.

Hunt broke down in tears as Greg said how much he missed his mother Anita at his wedding last week.

"An appropriate sentence would be one that again, doesn't allow her to get on with life and forget," said Greg Zaffke. "We want a sentence that is going to provide an opportunity for her to truly understand what she has done and not forget about the huge loss that she has provided my family."

Zaffke testified about his mother's love for motorcycles, biking, hiking and books, and said his mother was most proud of her recent degree from Roosevelt university.

"The trial was not as much about my mother rather than trying to blame the victim, and now we get a chance to tell the court the kind of person that my mother was," said Greg Zaffke.

Zaffke's husband and son both wore black nail polish on their left hand in court and read emotional statements during the sentencing hearing.

Greg Zaffke said he agonizes over not being able to tell his mother that he loves her one more time, but he did say the sentence was appropriate.

"We feel it was an appropriate sentence," said Zaffke. "We appreciate Judge Forman's acknowledgement of the epidemic of distracted driving and the need to apply a sentence that will serve as a warning to all motorists that their actions behind the wheel have serious consequences to those on the road that they may hurt or kill."

ABC7 was told that Hunt had wanted to reach out to the Zaffke family throughout the trial but could not because of legal reasons. "We will not shrug our collective shoulders and take the easy way out, calling this just another tragic accident as some other counties have chosen to do," said Assistant Lake County State's Attorey Michael Mermel. "The sentence which Judge Forman imposed actually results in a longer incarceration period than if she would had been given a longer time of imprisonment, so for all the good things that we heard about Lora Hunt, I don't think any of them were truly considered," said defense attorney Jeff Tomczak.

During the sentencing, Hunt was described by her pastor and therapist as being incredibly tormented by the accident, and her brother testified that she had talked about killing herself. Eight people, including her husband and two of her children, testified in her defense.

While the hearing proceeded, she was very emotional, breaking down in tears several times.

Since his mother's death, Greg Zaffke's life cause has been to raise awareness about distracted drivers, and he says he hopes to take his message to high schools and the Department of Motor Vehicles with an interactive exhibit. He also plans to set up a foundation.

A hearing on a possible financial restitution is scheduled for August 20th.


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