Smithville woman gets 20 years for violating probation in child’s death


A crash report shows Jennifer Zapalac’s blood alcohol level was 0.211 at the time her daughter was killed.

The 20-year sentence handed down Wednesday is the stiffest punishment allowed for a second-degree felony.

A Smithville woman with three DWI arrests was sentenced to 20 years in prison for violating the conditions of her probation in connection with her young daughter’s traffic death.

A September 2015 crash report shows Jennifer Lynn Zapalac’s blood alcohol level was 0.211 — more than twice the legal limit for driving — when her 7-year-old daughter, Victoria, was killed along a rural road in Bastrop County. Her mother took a turn too fast and struck a tree and a fence with her Chevrolet Suburban, records show.

READ: Questions surround Smithville woman’s probation deal in daughter’s death

At the time of the crash, Zapalac had a pending felony drunken driving case in Travis County, on a charge of driving while intoxicated with Victoria in the vehicle. The charge was later dropped.

Zapalac, 51, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in October and was sentenced to 10 years of probation. The plea included an amendment to the original charge of intoxication manslaughter and kept Zapalac from facing possible prison time. It also meant she could keep her license to teach elementary English.

But two months into the probation, Bastrop County state District Judge Christopher Duggan issued an order for Zapalac’s arrest for violating an unspecified condition of the probation. She entered a plea of true to the probation violation Feb. 8, court records show.

The 20-year sentence Duggan handed down Wednesday is the stiffest punishment allowed for a second-degree felony.

Travis County court records show Zapalac was charged with a felony DWI in 2013 with Victoria in the vehicle. She had lethargic movements and speech after being stopped for drifting over the center line on South Lamar Boulevard, records show.

With the case pending, court records show Zapalac showed up drunk to a June 2015 DWI court assessment, registering a blood alcohol level of 0.215.

The charge was dismissed in May 2016 in what Assistant District Attorney Andrea Austin called “a strategic decision in order to help Bastrop County effectively prosecute their case.”

A third drunken driving offense from 2012 was dismissed when Zapalac completed a pretrial court program in Bastrop County.

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