Judge D'Apolito 'haunted' by grieving mother’s broken heart


YOUNGSTOWN

By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Judge Lou D’Apolito said he wanted to keep emotion out of the sentencing Thursday of two people who admitted to their roles in the July overdose death of a man on the East Side.

That, however, was hard as Dawn Karlovec, mother of the victim, Matthew Godfrey, showed the judge pictures of her son and told him why she thought Marisha Robinson, 26 and Jesse Kellum, 28, who had each pleaded guilty to charges of permitting drug abuse and involuntary manslaughter, needed to be punished for what happened to her son.

“I’m haunted by the mother’s broken heart,” said Judge D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Karlovec wanted both to pay some kind of price for using drugs July 20 in a McCartney Road home with Godfrey, 25, who died, although she said she did want Robinson, a mother of three, to get help for her drug problem.

Judge D’Apolito, too, seemed at times perplexed over how to run a court proceeding and deal with Karlovec’s pain, giving her a bit more leeway to speak than most people, and asking her several questions.

“My baby’s gone, your honor,” Karlovec told him.

Judge D’Apolito said he could not imagine the pain she was going through, but he added he needed to make sure the proper penalty was given.

“I can’t let the emotion of the circumstance dictate the penalty,” Judge D’Apolito said.

Both received five years’ probation with the warning that if they violate their probation, they will go straight to prison. The sentences were recommended by prosecutors and defense attorneys as well as a presentence investigation. Neither has a previous criminal record and they must complete drug treatment and stay sober while on probation.

Kellum’s attorney, Ron Knickerbocker, disputed some of the things Karlovec was saying about Kellum and Robinson abandoning her son to die. Kellum said he tried to save him and a second ambulance had to be called because equipment needed to treat Godfrey was not available in the first ambulance.

“I did all I could to save his life,” Kellum said. “I had more respect for his body and him as a person [than] to leave him there like that.”

Karlovec acknowledged her son made a bad decision to use heroin. She said he had been clean for almost a year before the day he overdosed. He had gotten addicted after he received opiate based-painkillers to treat a football injury at Youngstown Christian High School. Her son also had a degree from Youngstown State University.

Robinson and Kellum both apologized to Karlovec. Robinson said the time she spent in jail before she was released on bond in the case may have kept her from dying, that’s how bad her addiction was.

“It [heroin] was no longer a want for me. It was a need,” Robinson said. “I wasn’t even getting high any more. Jail saved my life.”

Judge D’Apolito said the real defendant he needed in his courtroom is the person who sold the drugs to the three. That person, he said, deserves the maximum sentence possible.

“Those are the true criminals,” Judge D’Apolito said.

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