By C.J. Carnacchio
It appears Sylvia Marie Majewska will spend up to 25 years in prison for killing her son and granddaughter nearly three years ago.
On Oct. 4, the 68-year-old Addison Township resident pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree murder in Oakland County Circuit Court before Judge Denise Langford Morris. Her sentencing is scheduled for 8: 30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 26.
Majewska was originally charged with the first-degree murders of her son Daryne Gailey, 29, of Oxford Township, and her 7-month-old granddaughter Charley Lillian Hendrick. Both were found dead on Nov. 23, 2014 inside Gailey’s home on Kintyre. Blunt force trauma to the head resulted in Hendrick’s demise, while Gailey’s throat was slashed, according to the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Gailey was a 2003 Oxford High School graduate and a full-time clerk at the Kroger grocery store in Lake Orion, where he was well-known and loved by many folks.
Following his death, an estimated 400 to 450 people attended a memorial service for Gailey at Oxford Middle School. Those who attended fondly remembered Gailey as a proud father with an unshakable optimism, a helpful nature, a genuine concern for others and the ability to always see the best in everyone.
Gailey was developmentally disabled and Majewska had legal guardianship over him.
Majewska was the only one alive when Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies entered Gailey’s home. She was found sitting on the couch in the living room with a boxcutter beside her. Her left arm and wrist sustained what were believed to be self-inflicted cuts and she was bleeding into a bucket. She was conscious and able to talk, but authorities said she wasn’t speaking coherently at the time.
The premeditated murder charges against Majewska were dismissed and replaced with second-degree charges as part of a Cobbs agreement for a 25-year sentence.
Based on the 1993 Michigan Supreme Court case People v. Cobbs, a Cobbs agreement (or plea) involves a judge making an agreement with a defendant regarding the sentence the court is likely to impose if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. A judge can either be specific and tell the defendant a definite jail term or the judge can be vague and, for instance, indicate the defendant will be sentenced at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines. If for some reason, the court cannot abide by the Cobbs agreement, the defendant is legally entitled to withdraw his or her plea and proceed to trial, or enter into a new Cobbs agreement.
Under the Cobbs agreement for Majewska, she’s supposed to receive a 25-year sentence in exchange for her no-contest plea to the two counts of second-degree murder.
Her defense attorney, William Mitchell III, felt this was the best thing for his client given she’s “still fragile in terms of her emotions and psyche.”
“The possibility of a sentence of life without (the possibility of) parole is too harsh a gamble, so that’s where deals are made,” he said.
As part of the Cobbs agreement, Mitchell will have an opportunity to argue for a sentence that’s less than 25 years.
“I have a number in mind, but I’m not going to share it at this time,” he said.
Mitchell believes “there certainly was room for a jury to get to second-degree” in this case. “I really don’t think that first-degree was a lock for the prosecutor,” he said.
He also believes that “depending upon how (the jury) assessed some of the other aspects of the case, a not-guilty (verdict) was not out of the question.”
That’s because Mitchell contends there has to be some medical reason that was not found or identified that caused Majewska to kill her son and granddaughter, then “try to kill herself.” He said he’s “100 percent sure that at the time . . . whatever was going on (in Majewska’s mind and/or body) was responsible.”
Otherwise, it “doesn’t make sense” to Mitchell, given everything he claims Majewska did to ensure her disabled son became a “functioning member of society” who earned a living and was well-liked by others.
When it comes to the doctors finding no mental illness or medical conditions that affected Majewska’s mental stability at the time of the murders, Mitchell said, “I respectfully disagree with that.”
“I just think the doctors missed something here,” he said. “I’m not a doctor, but I know that you don’t have a person who changes so drastically in her personality or her demeanor without something having happened.”
“That’s the part that I think even the prosecutors have to acknowledge is something that a juror would have to ponder. You have to wonder why that happened,” Mitchell continued.
“The human mind is something that doctors are still trying to figure out . . . . Even for them there are things that are unexplained,” the attorney noted.
In December 2014, 52-3 District Court Judge Lisa Asadoorian ordered that Majewska be placed in the state’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Saline for evaluation on the issues of competency and criminal responsibility. She was treated at the 210-bed psychiatric facility for about a year and was finally deemed competent to stand trial at a Feb. 29, 2016 hearing in district court.
According to Mitchell, Majewska has “no memory” of the killings. She is aware of what happened and the attorney said when it comes up, “it is always an emotional moment” for her.
Paul T. Walton, the county’s chief assistant prosecutor, did not return phone calls seeking comment about the case.