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Man not responsible in deaths

by F.T. Norton

Just before Christmas, 11-year-old Rhae Norton should have been captivated by the holiday. Instead, as Rhae realizes a Dayton judge’s ruling means no one will be held responsible for the death of her brother, Louis, she worries about her father.

“Something’s gonna happen,” the sixth-grader said ominously. “My dad is gonna get killed, or something else bad is gonna happen.”

Bruce Norton thinks his daughter may be right.

He is a man so consumed by anguish he can’t concentrate on anything else. That pain is shared by his family and their neighbor and friend Gloria Marek-Woznak, whose father and son were also killed with Louis Norton.

Norton, 15; his friend Robert Marek, 16; and Marek’s grandfather Harold Wright, 60, died July 31, 2002, when their vehicle was struck at the intersection of Fir Avenue and Highway 95A in Silver Springs by Mark Fejervary’s car.

Fejervary’s blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident is estimated at .25, according to court documents. After a year of investigation, the Lyon County District Attorney filed charges against Fejervary of driving under the influence causing death.

Following a preliminary hearing Friday, a Dayton justice of the peace determined there wasn’t enough evidence to try Fejervary, 43.

Instead, the two-time convicted drunk driver, will be tried on one count of felony third-offense drunken driving. If convicted, he’ll spend six years behind bars at most.

He remains in the Lyon County Jail with no bail.

“The judge did not find sufficient evidence that the defendant was a proximate cause of the accident,” Lyon County District Attorney Leon Aberasturi wrote in an e-mail last weekend to mothers Tami Norton and Gloria Marek-Woznak. “I tried to present evidence that there was sufficient time for the defendant to stop after Harold had pulled out. The issue came down to seconds. Assumptions had to be used to determine how long Harold’s car was in the intersection and I do not believe the judge accepted the assumptions of my experts.”

According to witness statements, Wright “tried to beat (Fejervary) across the intersection.” The Nevada Highway Patrol investigation shows that although Fejervary may have crossed the double yellow lines to illegally pass another vehicle, he was back within his travel lane when Wright attempted to cross the highway.

Skid marks 54 feet long, allegedly from Fejervary’s car, were proof there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision, said Dayton Justice Court Judge William Rogers.

Rogers, whose 18-year-old sister was killed in a car accident when he was 16, said despite his own opinion of Fejervary, he’s obligated to uphold the law.

“All of the witnesses testified the actions of Mr. Wright created a situation where the accident happened,” Rogers said Tuesday. “At the conclusion, the state’s case showed that it wasn’t Mr. Fejervary’s fault.

“As tragic as that may be, and as much as I may have disliked what I had to do – I agonized over that decision – the law is very clear. I’m not entitled to make decisions on how I feel.”

Gloria Marek’s reasoning is simpler. “Fejervary should not have been driving that night as drunk as he was. That was illegal. If he hadn’t been driving, he wouldn’t have been there, and my father and son and Louis would still be alive,” she said.

Bruce Norton said he was so enraged at the ruling he made it known to Lyon County deputies Friday night in the Silver Springs substation. Driving the car his son saved his money to buy but was never able to purchase, Norton screamed at deputies at the station. When they asked him to leave and he refused, Norton was cuffed around and booked into the Lyon County Jail in Yerington on a 72-hour mental evaluation hold. No criminal charges were filed.

The next day, Woznak’s husband, Steve, called every counselor he could, and eventually, one agreed to visit with Bruce. That evaluation prompted his early release.

By 3 p.m., Norton walked out of the Yerington jail – but not before he hollered as loud as he could down the hallways to the man he hoped was still in a cell, “Mr. Fejervary, my name is Bruce Norton, and you killed my son!”

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Louis Norton and Robert Marek were dropped off early on the morning of July 31, 2002 by Norton’s father. They spent their day fishing at Lahontan State Park and were expecting to be picked up at 8 p.m. by Robert’s grandfather.

Harold Marek and his daughter Gloria drove to Dayton. They ate breakfast at the Carson Plains Casino and played penny slots for a couple hours. When they got home about 1p .m., they talked for a while then played a video. Harold fell asleep during the movies and woke about 6 p.m., Gloria wrote in a report to police.

Her final words on the informal statement, scrawled in a harder hand at a sharper slant, give voice to the reality: “He left at 7:45 p.m. to pick up the boys. Never to return.”

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The ruling leaves the families feeling as though no one cares.

“What are we teaching our kids?” Bruce Norton asked rhetorically as he sits in the Woznak’s Silver Springs home Monday. “I guess we’re teaching them it’s OK to kill.”

He falls to his knees.

“Am I supposed to kneel before Fejervary and say, ‘Please don’t drink and drive, Mr. Fejervary, and kill another one of our kids?'” he asks. “The police are supposed to work with victims and not persecute the victims. This has destroyed our families, and no one cares.”

Since the accident, Norton hasn’t worked. He spent 23 years as a skyscraper steeplejack, he said. How could he possibly concentrate with his son’s “murder,” on his mind, he asks.

Louis Norton’s death has had a devastating effect on the family that traveled constantly to job sites. The family was extremely close, Tami Norton said, because its members were all they had.

“People don’t want to hear about it anymore,” she said. “Society is telling us to get over it, move on.”

“How many opportunities do you give a drunk to get on the road and kill people? The system has failed us,” Bruce said. “There’s no consequences to what he’s done.”

“Our two children expected and had the right to expect an adult to make the right decision for them, and Fejervary didn’t,” Tami said.

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“None of this will bring back Robert, Louis or my father,” Gloria Marek-Woznak said. “But any changes made to the DUI law will be done in their names.”

“Why aren’t our laws tough enough?” Steve Woznak asks. ” If there’s anything people take away from this, especially because it’s the holidays, it’s us saying ‘Please think before you drive.'”

“How can a person have faith in our justice system when the system does nothing?” Gloria asks. “I thought our system was here to speak on behalf of those who couldn’t speak for themselves.”

Bruce Norton said he finds some comfort in religion. He spends his days making stainless steel crosses in a shed outside his home. The trampoline that Louis and Robert once bounced on now holds dozens of the crosses, neatly laying in a row waiting for paint.

“What else do I have? What else can I do?” he said. “I can’t get nothing out. I cannot express what I’m feeling. My son is gone.”

Contact F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com.