Slain woman’s mission to free husband
Michelle Kozlowski’s six-year struggle over the treatment of her husband by Douglas County’s legal establishment ended Tuesday when she was shot in the street, allegedly by her own son.
Kozlowski, 50, was scheduled to go to trial on Monday on charges she obstructed deputies, who responded to the April collision that resulted in her husband’s incarceration.
East Fork Justice Court clerks were contacting the dozen or so trial witnesses on Wednesday, including several doctors who had been called to testify.
Michelle’s body was found on Manhattan Way by deputies who responded to a report of shots fired at 1:24 a.m. Tuesday in the Gardnerville Ranchos.
Deputies took cover behind vehicles parked at 1233 Manhattan Way where Kozlowski and her two sons had been living.
Son Jarek Kozlowski, 28, allegedly opened fire from the doorway with a handgun and deputies returned fire hitting him, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators suspect Jarek of shooting his mother during a fight involving all three of the home’s occupants.
He is recovering at Renown Regional Medical Center. Relatives are asking residents for help finding clothing for Joseph Kozlowski, 21, who is barred from the home the family rented.
Sheriff’s Spokesman Sgt. Pat Brooks said deputies had been called to the home on numerous occasions, but that they’d had no prior contact with Jarek. The investigation is still ongoing.
The handgun was recovered after Jarek’s arrest. No deputies were injured in the incident.
Michelle was born June 3, 1965, in San Bernardino, Calif., according to official documents.
Michelle’s husband, Steven, is serving 2-7 years at Northern Nevada Correctional Facility after his June sentencing.
Steven admitted he was drunk on April 9 when he drove his pickup through a fence and struck a tree in the backyard of a home on Joette Drive in the Ranchos.
Witnesses said that he tried to back up in order to free the pickup and when that failed he got out and sat down on the lawn.
As deputies and medics were checking on Steven, both Michelle and son Joseph arrived at the scene and allegedly interfered with medics and deputies.
Joseph pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace in June as a result of the incident. He was fined.
Steven still on probation from a previous case and wasn’t supposed to be driving.
Michelle fought the charges, though, making several appearances during public comment before the Douglas County Board of Commissioners, including in May, arguing that her husband’s head injury required special accommodations. In July, she told commissioners that the Veterans Administration doesn’t help veterans who acquire criminal charges.
It has been more than seven years since Steven was convicted of punching his son in the face in an argument over the boy’s grades.
At the time, his attorney said Steven suffered a brain injury and couldn’t remember the incident he was arrested for.
During the May 2008 hearing it was revealed that he was facing a charge of driving under the influence in Carson City.
It was while he was awaiting sentencing on a felony DUI in Carson City, on Aug. 22, 2009, that he was arrested for riding his motorcycle under the influence and struggling with deputies trying to arrest him.
In late November 2010, Steven was sentenced in Carson City to 12-30 months in prison for felony driving under the influence.
A few months later, in February 2011, Steven appeared in Douglas County District Court on the eluding and DUI charges in a wheelchair and wearing protective headgear.
He’d allegedly suffered several falls while in prison and was having trouble understanding proceedings.
In August 2011 Steven and Michelle filed a civil suit against the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the officers who arrested him on allegations of excessive force.
Two civil cases were dismissed by the Nevada Supreme Court, according to its records.
The Kozlowskis filed suit claiming Steven had protected status as a vulnerable person. They were representing themselves in the litigation.
By October 2011, Steven was out of prison but facing the possibility of going back. In December, he was ordered to stand trial for a subsequent felony DUI, which carries a sentence of 2-15 years.
Steven denied the charges and a trial was set for August 2012, but a week before the date, Kozlowski’s attorneys asked to withdraw from the case because he threatened them with criminal charges.
Steven used a similar tactic when his court-appointed lawyer represented him on the charges in 2010 and 2011.
By March 2013, negotiations resulted in a deal which allowed him to admit to one count of eluding and misdemeanor driving under the influence. Under the agreement, prosecutors agreed to return the Harley-Davidson motorcycle Steven was riding when he was arrested four years before. At his April 2013 sentencing, Steven was sentenced to a suspended four-year prison term. He attended the sentencing in a wheelchair and presented letters that convinced the judge he wouldn’t be driving due to his deteriorating mental and physical condition.
Steven and Michelle, who had his power of attorney, appealed the conviction to the Nevada Supreme Court a year later, claiming he was denied due process. In his appeal, he claimed he didn’t understand what he was doing when he pleaded guilty. The Supreme Court denied his appeal, saying he’d given up the right to appeal.