The British Columbia man who allegedly left his girlfriend to drown after crashing a plane into a Montana lake in 1982, pleaded guilty in Flathead County District Court Thursday to criminal endangerment and criminal mischief.
Jaroslaw “Jerry” Ambrozuk’s charge of negligent homicide was dismissed as part of the deal, with the agreement that he would not serve any additional jail time, according to his attorney, Chuck Watson.
Ambrozuk was a fugitive until August 2006, when he was arrested in Plano, Texas living under an assumed name.
Watson said Ambrozuk will be transported to the Texas Eastern District Court in Plano Monday after sentencing in Kalispell, to plead guilty to illegally obtaining a U.S. passport.
Ambrozuk has served nine months in Flathead County jail.
Watson estimates Ambrozuk will serve another year and a half in a federal facility in Texas.
“He’s looking at the neighborhood of 18 months incarceration,” Watson said.
Watson said he finalized the deal Monday with fellow Bozeman attorney Larry Jent, prosecutors in Flathead and Plano, as well as the attorney for the family of Dianne Babcock, who died in the 1982 crash.
“It’s sort of a global settlement,” Watson said.
Ambrozuk’s case gained national attention after his story was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted.”
In previous trials Ambrozuk testified that he crash-landed his plane while attempting to elope with Babcock, his girlfriend at the time. The plane flipped unexpectedly and Babcock couldn’t unbuckle her seatbelt as the plane sank.
Ambrozuk swam away and did not notify law enforcement, although he called a friend in B.C. to alert police.
He lived the next 24 years as a fugitive heading to New York, then Texas.
At the time of his arrest, Ambrozuk was running a software development company with $500,000 in property and a $71,000 Dodge Viper.
In plea negotiations, Watson said he tried to emphasize that the plane crash and homicide were the actions and decisions of an 18-year-old, not a grown man.
Watson said his client struggled with the guilty plea out of fear that Ambrozuk will be portrayed as a killer.
“He wants to do the right thing and accept responsibility,” Watson said. “This was just a misadventure – not to say it wasn’t criminal.”
Watson also gave an understated nod to the unusual nature of the Abrozuk’s legal proceedings.
“I don’t know that I’ve had a case exactly like this before,” Watson said.
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