Father demands stricter sentence for fatal crash suspect

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 18:17:06-04

ST. JOHNS, Mich. — Ryan Zandstra, who was once the subject of a Problem Solvers investigation, is now facing possible jail time after a fatal crash.

It happened in Clinton County in August 2018. Tyler Jelinek, 19, lost his life after Zandstra slammed into Jelinek's vehicle in a construction zone.

Terry Jelinek, Tyler's father, reached out to the Problem Solvers after doing a Google search. He was looking for information on Zandstra and found he's same man FOX 17 confronted about a no-show construction project in June 2018.

He was accused of taking off with a customer's $5,750 deposit for a pavement job he never started.

Family and friends of Tyler Jelinek protested on the morning Zandstra was originally scheduled to be sentenced, March 13.

"My son had faith in this world. He was going to change this world. Not his life. His world," Jelinek told FOX 17.

In this case, Jelinek feels Zandstra will get off light for taking a life despite his negligence.

"They charged this man with a misdemeanor of 'moving violation causing death' which is only 365-day maximum. This man had cocaine in his system but presumed not enough according to the prosecuting attorney Charles Sherman," Jelinek said.

Prosecutor Charles Sherman explained to FOX 17 that a byproduct of cocaine was found in Zandstra's system. So the prosecutor said he consulted with the former head of the Michigan State Police Crime Lab for an expert opinion.

"She said what it means is he had used cocaine within the past four to five days prior to the test being taken," Sherman said. "She said she could not say that there was any active cocaine in his system at the time of the accident."

The prosecutor said he has to be able to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt and that he had no evidence Zandstra was operating under the influence.

He said he's explained that to Tyler's father.

"I don't blame him for his feelings on this," Sherman said. "He's gone through the most horrible thing that I think any parent can even imagine, and I have nothing but sympathy for him and I understand his feelings. But you know I have to look at it through what I can and can't prove in a courtroom."

Zandstra's sentencing on March 13 was postponed due to new information the judge said he got about another crash Zandstra had in Ottawa County. It occurred just days before.

"I believe it was March 9 he was arrested in Ottawa County for operating under the influence," Sherman said.

Jelinek said the incident doesn't surprise him.

"Obviously this man doesn't know how to drive," he said.

"All I want is 365 days. Every second," he said of the pending sentence.

Mike Nichols, Zandstra's attorney, said his client is a good man. He's a United States Marine who served his country and is very sorry for causing the crash.

We'll post an update on the sentence he gets.