SOUTH BEND – The St. Joseph Prosecutor’s Office has filed formal charges against a Hammond accused of driving drunk and causing a crash in Walkerton that left his wife dead.
Prosecutors charged Thomas Grzywinski, 46, on Monday with causing death when operating a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more and causing death when operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Both charges are Level 4 felonies punishable by two to 12 years if convicted. The average sentence is six years.
According to a press release from prosecutors as well as court documents:
St. Joseph County sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in the 32000 block of Osborne Trail in Walkerton shortly after midnight Saturday after the homeowner reported a vehicle and a man, later identified as Grzywinski, refusing to leave his property.
Deputy Rodney Wisser arrived at the scene and spotted the vehicle 75-100 feet from the road “entrenched in some trees,” according to court papers.
Wisser found Grzywinski near the driver’s side door, with soiled clothes and not wearing shoes. The deputy thought Grzywinski lost control of the vehicle.
As Wisser approached Grzywinski, Grzywinski said “You saved me,” according to documents. When the deputy asked Grzywinski if anyone else was in the vehicle, he said there was not. Grzywinski said he was coming from a party.
During initial questioning, Wisser asked Grzywinski if he had been driving the vehicle, which Grzywinski denied. Grzywinski said his wife might have been with him.
Wisser didn’t see anyone else around the vehicle and again asked Grzywinski if he had been driving the vehicle. Grzywinski then admitted that he had been the driver. Grzywinski said his wife left the party with someone else.
After Wisser gave Grzywinski field sobriety tests, which Grzywinski failed, the deputy went back to get the vehicle’s information and search again. Once more, he did not find anyone.
Grzywinski was taken to the St. Joseph County Jail. A breath test determined he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.147 percent.
Wisser then took Grzywinski to a city hospital to be cleared to be booked into jail. While on the way, Grzywinski became agitated and claimed he wasn’t driving. He also told Wisser that officers needed to find his wife. Grzywinski told Wisser that his wife had to have been with him.
Grzywinski continued to claim he wasn’t the driver, but said his wife had to have accompanied him. Ultimately, he said someone told him his wife was asleep in the vehicle’s backseat, but that he hadn’t seen her.
Walkerton officers were called to the crash scene and a police canine found Christie A. Grzywinski dead in a “swampy” area about 200 feet from the vehicle, according to court papers.
Thomas Grzywinski told investigators he had a few drinks at his house before driving to his cousin’s home and having a few more drinks.
Grzywinski said he and his wife were leaving and his wife went to sleep in the backseat. He admitted to driving the vehicle. He said he was going to a hotel.
Grzywinski said he didn’t know the roads and didn’t know what happened until Wisser approached him. Grzywinski also said he had no memory of the crash.
Grzywinski was not in custody late Monday. He could not be reached for comment.
Grzywinski’s initial hearing in St. Joseph Superior Court VIII is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22.