Ismet Sijamhodzic pleads guilty to vehicular homicide

By Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 08 2013 10:18:00 AM EDT
Updated On: Aug 08 2013 08:37:34 PM EDT

Nearly a year after Wolfson High School senior Janay Jackson was killed when an out-of-control driver crashed into the girl's bedroom, that driver plead guilty in court. The 52-year-old driver accepted a plea deal, but, what he said in court, the girl's parents didn't expect.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Ismet Sijamhodzic on Thursday pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the death last year of 17-year-old JaNay Jackson.

Prosecutors say Sijamhodzic, 52, had smoked pot and taken Xanax when he crashed into a house on Kennerly Road early the morning of Aug. 28, 2012.

The van went through the wall and stopped 10 feet into the sleeping teen's bedroom.

Sijamhodzic ran a stop sign at the T-intersection of Kennerly and Barnes roads. He told investigators he had not slept in the previous three days before the crash.

In court Thursday, Sijamhodzic apologized to Jackson's family.

"I am so sorry for this accident that's happened, and I'm so sorry for Ms. Jackson's family," Sijamhodzic said. "I take full responsibility for this accident."

Sijamhodzic's lawyers said he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of being held as a prisoner of war during the war in Bosnia.

Jackson (pictured left), a drum major at Wolfson High School, was ranked third in her senior class. Family and friends say she dreamed of becoming a nurse practitioner.

After the hearing, Jackson's mother said her family is pleased Sijamhodzic accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty.

"Even though there won't be a trial, we still have to go through the sentencing hearing, so that will still be hard," Felicia Jackson said. "We've managed so far, we'll manage then."

"We're getting closer to where we can put the legalities of this behind us, and once we do that we're looking forward to the time where we can begin to heal and begin to move on," said Gerald Jackson, JaNay's father.

Still, Gerald said it was hard for him to listen to Sijamhodzic's apology.

"I couldn't look at him. I turned my head," he said. "Actually seeing him here today was definitely a hard situation for me."

Sijamhodzic faces nine to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 24. The state asked that Sijamhodzic be taken into custody, but Judge Suzanne Bass allowed him to remain free on bond until his sentencing.

He has to surrender his driver's license immediately and will have a curfew from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day except to go to work, mental health treatment and religious services.

"It's a very tragic case, it's a very tragic situation, and all these facts are going to be presented to the court at the sentencing hearing," defense attorney Alan Rosner said.

"I don't even know if we can ever move forward from this, but we love JaNay, we will always love JaNay, and it's just been real hard. It's been real hard," Felicia Jackson said.

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