A Camden woman is awaiting sentencing in Wisconsin after being found guilty of causing the deaths of two people there in August 2008.


A Camden woman, who lost control of her vehicle during a trip from Minnesota to Delaware in August 2008, has been found guilty of causing the deaths of two people in Wisconsin.

Phyllis Nicholson, then 65, was found guilty by a Jackson County, Wis., jury March 16 of two charges of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

Nicholson is free on bond pending sentencing, said Jackson County District Attorney Gerald R. Fox.

“There was nothing to suggest she was a flight risk,” Fox said, adding Nicholson has no prior criminal history.

The case began Aug. 11, 2008, on a stretch of Interstate 94, near Black River Falls, Wis., Fox said. Nicholson and her son, Sigmund “Sonny” Parzyck, then 38, had been traveling from Hackensack, Minn., en route to Dover when the accident occurred at approximately 4:45 a.m. While driving at the speed limit, Fox said Nicholson’s vehicle apparently drifted off the eastbound side of the roadway. Fox said she overcorrected, causing her vehicle to vault up from the median and land nose-down on the front end of a westbound pickup.

The pickup’s driver, area businessman Howard H. Fenske, 72, and his 8-year-old grandson, Blake D. Fenske, were killed and Fenske’s granddaughter, Maekaela, 9, was injured, Fox said.

Parzyck received non-life threatening injuries, although Nicholson was badly hurt enough to require several months of hospitalization and rehabilitation, Fox said.

Fox said Nicholson was charged with a crime after determining she probably was too tired to drive safely.

“The evidence at trial was that she had set out for a 38-hour cross country trip at 11 p.m. having already been awake for 12 1/2 hours,” Fox said, adding there was no suggestion Nicholson had been intoxicated.

“The state highway patrol calls it a ‘reduced state of alertness,’” Fox said.
Fox said Wisconsin authorities are conducting an investigative hearing prior to sentencing.

Under Wisconsin statutes, each count of homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and 10 years confinement. Wisconsin law would require the judge to impose a sentence of no more than five years in jail, with the remaining time spent in a probationary status, Fox said.

Any prison sentence most likely would be served in Wisconsin, although time on probation could be served out of state, Fox said.

Nicholson’s defense attorney, Jim Kroner of Moen Sheehan Myer, LTD., of LaCrosse, Wis., would not speculate on the possible outcome of the sentencing.

“This accident was a terrible tragedy for the Fenske family,” Kroner said. “The conviction of Mrs. Nicholson makes it a tragedy for the Nicholson family as well.”

Kroner said sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, June 16, in Black River Falls.

Email Jeff Brown at jeff.brown@doverpost.com.