As each family member and friend spoke, they painted a picture of a loving, kind, passionate, generous, giving, humorous, playful, active and determined young man named Antonio Ramon DeMeules.
Adam James Maki, 32, of Isanti, who left the scene of an Isanti County collision in September 2015 that resulted in the death of 15-year-old DeMeules, was sentenced to 162 days in the Isanti County Jail on July 21 in Isanti County District Court in Cambridge by Judge Douglas Meslow.
Maki pleaded guilty before Meslow on May 10 to the felony charge of failing to stop at a traffic collision causing injury or death. Maki was initially charged Nov. 23, 2016.
Maki immediately began serving an eight-day sentence, and the rest of his sentence will be served over the next four years from Aug. 18, 2017, through Sept. 11, 2017, with those same dates in 2018 and 2019. The remaining time will begin Aug. 18, 2020. Meslow explained he chose those dates because Aug. 18 is DeMeules’ birthday and Sept. 11 is the day after his death.
Besides serving 162 days in jail, Maki will be on supervised probation through the Minnesota Department of Corrections for four years. A prison sentence of one year and one day was also stayed by Meslow, meaning if Maki violates any conditions of his probation, Meslow may send Maki to prison.
DeMeules was a sophomore at Blaine High School who also attended Anoka Middle School for the Arts.
The incident occurred around 8:09 p.m. along 285th Avenue Northeast, east of Highway 65, on Sept. 10, 2015, while Maki was driving his pickup and Antonio was on his skateboard.
According to a supplemental report filed Dec. 28, 2016, by State Patrol Trooper Vang Yang: “A forensic phone analysis indicates that Adam Maki was likely on his phone at the time of the collision. With this information it is likely that Adam Maki was inattentive/distracted when the collision occurred. The clothing worn by the victim was dark colored, but did have some reflective striping that could have been visible. A witness did state that she saw DeMeules wearing striped dark clothing.”
Yang’s supplemental report also noted: “The statement given by Adam Maki and other evidence discovered by the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office indicate Adam Maki had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to the collision. Due to the time elapsed from the time of the crash to the time that Adam Maki turned himself in, there is no way to determine if Maki had a measurable amount of alcohol in his system and, if so, what the level would have been.”
According to the criminal complaint, Maki turned himself in to the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office one day after the incident after seeing a Twin Cities news report about the death of DeMeules and the search for the owner of the white pickup truck that was involved. Maki told an Isanti County investigator he thought he had hit an animal in the road. The complaint also states that DeMeules was seen skateboarding in the eastbound lane and last seen sitting on his skateboard.
An additional document provided to DeMeules’ family by Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Lance Langford states: “After reviewing the forensic map (diagram) of the physical evidence, it is my opinion that Antonio was ‘likely’ situated to the right of center of the westbound traffic lane. Because we cannot determine the location of the Ford in the lane at the time of the collision, we cannot say with 100 percent certainty where Antonio was when he was struck.”
The sentencing before Meslow lasted about two hours and consisted of eight victim impact statements read by friends and family members. However, Meslow said he read all 45 victim impact statements submitted in the case.
“I think these (victim impact statements) are special and I think they are a gift,” Meslow said. “I got to know Antonio through the letters and stories you told me. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know Antonio in those ways.”
Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad also read all the victim impact statements.
“When reflecting on the information provided by each of those statements, there is a theme of present and current loss,” Edblad said. “Those million moments spent at mealtimes, watching movies, spending time with brothers, fishing, swimming, hanging out with friends …. The loss of those million moments that make up a day. There was also the theme of those hopes and dreams that one has for their child.”
Edblad talked about the major milestones Antonio DeMeules will never have such as attending high school and going to prom, furthering his education, future service in the military, getting married and having children and grandchildren.
Edblad explained during Maki’s pre-sentence investigation he had an interview with his probation agent where the questions to the interview were supplied to Maki weeks in advance.
“What I find most troubling of all, in the 20-plus years I’ve held this office, is when asked the question, ‘Who was affected by your actions?’ the defendant responds, ‘My entire family.’ The defendant doesn’t state anything about Antonio or Antonio’s friends and family,” Edblad said.
Maki’s attorney, Jennifer Speas, asked Meslow to just consider the facts in the case as outlined by the criminal complaint.
“There has been a lot of accusations and allegations made about the evidence in this case, but I ask you to only look at the evidence as detailed in the county attorney’s complaint,” Speas said. “I ask you to use the evidence provided by the county attorney’s office, and not the allegations and accusations made by individuals in this courtroom today. Mr. Maki made a terrible mistake on Sept. 10, 2015; one he regrets every day. My client has two children of his own. There was no cover-up, no conspiracy, no plan by my client to hide the facts and evidence. It was not driving recklessly or duty to drive with due care or in an inattentive manner and not driving under the influence of alcohol that night. He admitted he failed to stop. Once he saw his truck on the news he left work early and said he wouldn’t be back to work tomorrow. He voluntarily was interviewed and did follow-up interviews. It wasn’t the police that found my client, my client found the police. My client said he thought he hit an animal, about 24 inches off the ground, that would fit the description of Antonio sitting on his skateboard. The next day, when my client learned authorities were looking for his truck, he did what he was expected to do.”
Maki apologized to DeMeules’ family prior to sentencing.
“I am deeply sorry for your loss; I wish I could go back and change that night,” Maki said. “I’ll never know the pain and sorrow you are going through and continue to go through. I am deeply sorry.”
Meslow addressed some concerns to Maki just prior to the sentence.
“I am concerned there are some prior alcohol-related offenses and concerned with past unsuccessful treatment,” Meslow said. “I’m concerned there was some alcohol consumption that night, but we’ll never know exactly how much that night, only you know. I am concerned you were searching Isanti County police scanners 45 minutes after you struck and killed Antonio.”
Meslow said while the circumstances are different, he told DeMeules’ family he does know what he feels like to lose a child, as his oldest son died of cancer when he was 19.
“I can’t begin to measure the depth of your loss; you have my deepest sympathies,” Meslow said. “Our memories are precious, and we have to rely on our family and friends to get us through. Hold onto your precious memories of Antonio. I wish I had the power to make everything right – justice would be to bring Antonio back – but I don’t have the power to do that.”
The victim impact statements described Antonio DeMeules as compassionate, kind, loving and creative and having a passion for cooking, skateboarding, biking, camping, fishing, swimming, painting, drawing, making people laugh, helping others, mentoring youth at church, spending time with friends and family and more.
Steven Moore read a statement written by Antonio DeMeules’ father, Jeffrey DeMeules. In the letter, Jeffrey DeMeules explained that when he was 10 he was hit by a distracted driver who had reached for her purse and had to relearn basic functions such as reading and writing. But the difference, Jeffrey DeMeules explained, was the driver who hit him stopped and called for help, and visited him in the hospital and helped him through his recovery.
“Antonio and I had a very loving relationship, and he was honestly my best friend,” Moore read on behalf of Antonio’s father. “My 15-year-old son had faith and patience in me and he never gave up on me and I would never give up on him. My life has instantly turned upside down, and I have to serve a life sentence. Antonio not being here with us is any parent’s worst nightmare and this is now our reality.”
Jeffrey DeMeules spoke following the reading of his victim impact statement.
“Ever since this happened I’ve been serving a life sentence,” Jeffrey DeMeules said. “I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor, and the only remorse he (Maki) has is he got caught. If this wasn’t caught on video, I believe he (Maki) would have never turned himself in. He just left him and left him to die.”
Antonio DeMeules’ mother, Renee Salazar, had her father and sister hold up pictures of her son while reading her victim impact statement.
“Antonio was my first born and he taught me a lot about life,” Salazar said. “Antonio had just turned 15 when he was killed and he had his whole life ahead of him. He was what this whole world needed. This is part of a daily sentence I’ll serve the rest of my life. I want him (Maki) to serve 15 years in prison; one year for each year that Antonio lived. Adam drug my first born, my baby boy, and ran him over before leaving him to die alone. You don’t know how hard it is to answer the question, ‘How many children do you have?’ My dreams for my family’s future has been taken from me. How do you go on losing a child when it is at the hands of a drunk driver? I miss him so much every day and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to him. I would give anything to tell him I love him one more time.”
Antonio DeMeules’ grandmother said she misses her grandson every day.
“My heart is heavy; I was there at the hospital when Antonio was born and I was there at the hospital when he was pronounced dead,” said Antonio’s grandmother, Marlene DeMeules. “He loved to make people smile, and he was always so full of love and would share it with whoever crossed his path. I miss his hugs and smiles, and not hearing his laughter is deafening. This is like a bad nightmare. I’ve tried to be strong for my son Jeffrey (Antonio’s father). I’ll never forget seeing my son falling to the ground in tears, begging for this not to be true. I’m haunted every day with the images of my deceased grandson.”
Sheila Potocnik, Antonio DeMeules’ aunt, was one of several family members who felt the charge against Maki should have been criminal vehicular homicide.
“Adam lied and manipulated his way through this entire investigation,” Potocnik said. “My brother Jeffrey has more bad days than good, and I’m honestly shocked he’s still here today. Too be honest, Adam has already claimed my brother’s life already. We know Adam drank at two different locations on Sept. 10, 2015. Adam killed a 15-year-old boy while distracted on a cellphone and then went home and listened to Isanti County police scanners. Adam is a risk to public safety.”
Antonio DeMeules’ aunt Mari Salazar said DeMeules was full of life.
“August 18 is a day I’ll never forget because it’s the day I became an aunt,” Mari Salazar said. “One month after my nephew turned 15, we buried him. Antonio loved his family, friends and life itself. He was a vivacious boy ready to explore what the world had to offer. He often talked about his future endeavors and he had it all mapped out. A part of me died that day as well.
“Antonio was a brother to my oldest son, and since his death, my son has been in grief counseling and attended grief camp. I have a 9-year-old daughter, who was 7 at the time of Antonio’s death, who has had thoughts of suicide over this. Antonio stepped into the big brother role for my children and they loved him dearly. Antonio’s life had barely begun and he had so much to offer this world,” she said.
Jordan Dropik, Antonio DeMeules’ brother, said he and DeMeules had plans together.
“Antonio and I had plans to join the military and live our lives together,” Dropik said. “I graduated high school this year and had to go to his grave to give him a ticket to be there. People who kill turkeys do not go home and download police scanners. Adam killed my brother, yet he’s able to continue on with his life. I miss my brother very much every single day.”
Antonio DeMeules’ friend Desiree Berczyk was a sophomore in high school with Antonio when he was killed.
“I’ve known Antonio for 15 years and I wish I would have known him longer,” Berczyk said. “He loved to cook and wanted to open his own restaurant. He had a great passion for church and loved to make people smile. I’ve suffered from severe depression from this. The day I got the call from my mom, my heart shattered into a million pieces. I go to the cemetery numerous times a month and the crash site to where he was left to die alone. I now talk to my best friend through a headstone.”