A Braham woman was sentenced Jan. 8 to one year in Isanti County Jail for driving under the influence of alcohol that resulted in an October car crash and seriously injured her 5-year-old son and brother.
Angela Marie Gutzkow, 37, pleaded guilty Nov. 20, 2013, to felony criminal vehicular operation for operating a vehicle with neglect under the influence of alcohol, and gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation for operating a vehicle with neglect under the influence of alcohol. As a result of the plea, a gross misdemeanor DWI charge and felony child endangerment charge were dismissed.
Besides sentencing Gutzkow to 365 days in jail, Judge Todd Schoffelman also ordered her to five years of supervised probation. If Gutzkow violates any conditions of her probation once released from jail, Schoffelman informed her he would execute a sentence of 18 months on the felony charge. Restitution was also ordered to stay open throughout the probationary period to pay for any medical claims submitted by the family.
The crash Oct. 22, 2013, happened at 4574 415th Ave. NE near Braham at 3:26 p.m. Gutzkow was driving a truck that went into the ditch and collided with a tree. Inside the truck was her son, Brakkus, and her brother.
“There aren’t any words offered on behalf of myself or my office that can have more of a significant impact on what this family has gone through,” Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad said. “This young boy sustained horrific, long-lasting injuries that will require surgeries over the course of a lifetime.”
Brakkus’ father, Brian Giffrow, talked about his son’s injuries as a result of the car crash. Giffrow explained the whole right side of his son’s face was crushed, and he had his nose reset. A plate was put in his eye socket, but he is still having vision problems, and another appointment has been set with the surgeon and a pediatric vision specialist.
Giffrow explained his son’s adult tooth buds are crushed, so there will be no adult teeth on that side, there will be multiple bone graphs and many stages of oral surgery, and he can’t have implants until he is at least 16. Giffrow noted doctors have stated there’s no telling how many surgeries and complications Brakkus will have as he grows.
“On the mental side, none of us have had a good night’s sleep, and Brakkus has had continual night terrors,” Giffrow said. “Getting him to ride in vehicles has been nearly impossible. Even on his birthday, I told him he could pick out a toy and he still refused. He will need a lifetime of therapy. The restrictions that have been put on Brakkus have been very hard on him, and the future restrictions will be worse regarding sports.”
Gutzkow’s attorney, Jesse Johnson, said his client takes responsibility for her actions.
“My client has had a chemical use assessment and desperately wants to go back to treatment,” Johnson said. “This is her child, and she wants to make this work. The sooner she gets back on track, the better. She’s been in custody this entire time. She’s accountable and she shows remorse.”
Gutzkow addressed the court prior to sentencing.
“To say I’m sorry is not enough to show the intense remorse to everyone that I’ve caused anger, pain and resentment toward me,” Gutzkow said. “I hurt my child, and a lot of people, including those in my own family, are going through a lot. I can show better than I can tell how sorry I truly am. Words are not enough, action needs to be taken. I’ve been seeking treatment for some time, and I need to get the help I need.”
Gutzkow said she understands what she did to her son.
“I carried Brakkus in my womb, and I know I haven’t had an opportunity to experience how this bad decision has affected my baby boy,” Gutzkow said. “I want to show him how sorry I am, and I know he loves me. I can’t wait to put my arms around him and show him how much I love him and tell him I will never put him in harm’s way again.”
Edblad noted there is a termination of parental rights case ongoing with Isanti County Family Services. In her victim impact statement, Brakkus’ grandmother, Debra Klejeski, also talked about past involvement with child protection.
“We have been trying to keep Brakkus safe since he was little. I have so many pictures of wounds on Brakkus, it makes me ill to think of it,” Klejeski wrote. “Child protective services has accepted three cases, prior to the accident, for Brakkus against his mother. … My son, Brian, has raised Brakkus 98 percent of his life. Brian has taken Brakkus to all his doctor, dental appointments and Headstart.”
The godparents of Brakkus talked about the toll the crash has left on the family.
“The family of Brakkus Giffrow has been gravely traumatized both emotionally and physically by this senseless act committed by his biological mother by drinking and driving,” wrote Junior and Geraldyne VonLoh. “A permanent picture in our minds and hearts of our godchild and grandnephew the day of the accident, standing on the side of a gravel road — bleeding and crying because he was afraid, cold and in extreme pain — will never leave us.
“Brakkus is now learning the love and stability of a home. He has a stepmother and father who truly love him. They are working with him in preschool and have counseling at home,” they added.
Giffrow told Gutzkow that Brakkus has a mother who will always be there for him.
“Brakkus has a mother who is there for him every day and that is my wife, Samantha Giffrow,” Giffrow said. “You have shown no remorse. … No amount of jail time will change the fact that my son is scarred for life. You have told me that you are an addict and that alcohol is not your drug of choice. I feel sorry for any innocent person that is in your path.”
Schoffelman told Gutzkow he hopes she gets the help she needs.
“I wish you well, and hopefully this extended period of sobriety will serve you well,” Schoffelman said. “I hope everything you told me today pans out for you. If you have any doubt why you should take control of this, you should step back and take a look at your son’s picture.”