A year and eight days after she lost a son, Donna Lynskey attempted Monday to accomplish what she knew, for any mother, seemed all but impossible.
With her two surviving children, other family members, a parish priest and her husband, Michael Sr., at her side, Donna tried to explain to Genesee County Court Judge Charles Zambito what it meant to learn her 18-year-old son, Connor Lynskey, had been killed by a hit-and-run driver in Darien.
"It is when our lives were shattered," she said.
After a sentencing that in its entirety lasted about two hours – including addresses from Donna Lynskey, Genesee County District Attorney Lawrence Friedman, defense lawyer Frank LoTempio III and Zambito – the judge sentenced Jennifer Serrano, 49, of Irving, to four and two-thirds to 14 years in state prison, the maximum sentence he could impose on the charges, Friedman said.
Serrano was convicted in July of vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal incident after the death of Lynskey, of Hinckley, in Oneida County.
He was struck and killed on Sumner Road while walking back to a campsite after a Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake.
Connor, a four-time class president at Holland Patent High School, was attending Siena College and intended to study medicine at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse like his older brother, Michael Jr. He had already been accepted into a rural medicine program there.
About 25 minutes after Lynskey was struck, Serrano was arrested on Route 77 and charged with driving while intoxicated after she pulled out in front of a Genesee County Sheriff's Office deputy, Friedman said.
Investigators said she did not mention anything at that time about striking Connor Lynskey.
She would eventually be charged with aggravated unlicensed operation after she was bailed out and then drove the same vehicle to her Irving home, Friedman said, during a period in which the teenager was still missing.
"It was a hard thing to do," Donna Lynskey said, of speaking on her son's behalf, "but I had to do it for Connor."
No measure of punishment will compensate for what the family lost, she said, but she felt an imperative to make sure Serrano received maximum penalties under state laws the Lynskeys maintain are not severe enough for drivers who have been drinking, and then flee fatal accidents.
She said her family is considering a campaign to attach longer sentences to those crimes, a mission built upon their grief at the senseless manner in which Connor died. He was struck in the darkness, along a roadside. While his friends called for help when they realized he was missing, his body was not discovered by authorities until 12 hours later.
What the family will never understand, Donna said, is why Serrano and her companion did not immediately stop and call for help. As for Friedman, he hopes the sentence offers a stark message to any drivers who choose to drink to excess, and then take the wheel.
In all ways, he said of Serrano, "this could be them."
Story topics: Genesee County