Family members of Cody Czerpak were hoping his grandfather would get the maximum prison term of 14 years for his shotgun death.

Instead, Summit County Common Pleas Judge Kathryn Michael — noting that she believed Dann Schaffer didn’t intend to kill the grandson he helped raise — sentenced Schaffer to six years, the minimum possible.

“Are you kidding me?” Brianna Long, Czerpak’s girlfriend and the mother of his two young children, choked out from the gallery between sobs.

This was the dramatic ending to Schaffer’s emotional sentencing for a 2018 accidental shooting that pitted his family members against each other.

Schaffer’s attorney said he was intoxicated and on edge because of break-ins in the area — and fired his shotgun not realizing it was his 22-year-old grandson who had come into his room. The shooting happened just before 11 p.m. Aug. 19 at Schaffer’s Rothrock Avenue home in Akron’s Summit Lake neighborhood where Czerpak was living.

“Nobody believed Dann — at the height of anger or intoxication — would have done anything to purposely harm Cody,” said attorney Andrea Whitaker, who represented Schaffer with her father, Bill Whitaker.

Schaffer, 62, pleaded guilty in February to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification. He originally was charged with murder.

Schaffer later asked to withdraw his plea, got new attorneys and ultimately opted to keep his plea in place.

The courtroom was packed with family members, with several wearing T-shirts with pictures of Czerpak and messages like “Justice for Cody” and “Gone But Never Forgotten.”

Assistant Prosecutor Zach Neumann noted how Czerpak’s death divided and traumatized the family.

Several family members were home at the time of the shooting, including Long and her two children — who heard the shot — and Pamela Schaffer, Dann’s wife, who witnessed the shooting. Neumann said Czerpak went into Schaffer’s room to bring him food because he was intoxicated. He said Schaffer grabbed his shotgun and shot Czerpak.

“Schaffer regrets what he did,” Neumann said. “Alcohol had a huge role. ... All parties agree that — had he been sober — he most likely would not have done what he did.”

Neumann, though, urged Michael to impose the maximum sentence.

Long said Schaffer was a wonderful father and the “love of her life.” She said Cody, her 5-year-old son named after his father, was traumatized by his father’s death at the hands of his grandfather.

“There’s no justice in this because Cody will never come back,” she said. “My kids will never have their dad.”

Michael urged Long to get counseling for herself and her children.

Long said Schaffer helped raise Czerpak and loved him like he was his own son. She said Czerpak once told her Schaffer was the only man he admired.

Tonya Criss, Cody’s mother, said if someone besides Schaffer had killed her son, she would have wished death about them.

“There is no win in this situation because we’ve lost so much — in a horrible way,” said Criss, who cut her remarks short because she was so emotional.

James “Bo” Czerpak, Cody’s father, said he knows Schaffer loved his son and called this a “freak accident.”

“I want you to know it hurt me,” Czerpak said to Schaffer. “We miss and we love him. I know you do, too. There’s nothing we can do. I don’t hate you. I know what you did you didn’t mean to do.”

Whitaker thanked the family for their remarks. She suggested the minimum prison sentence would be appropriate, given the circumstances.

Schaffer, reading from a written statement, apologized to his family as many of them sobbed loudly in the gallery.

“I shot Cody,” he said. “I didn’t mean to. Now, this family has to stay together. I hope this plea allows the family to move forward together while I’m gone.”

Michael called this a case of “mistaken identity.” She said the maximum sentence recommended by prosecutors would be appropriate in a case involving an intentional killing.

“There’s no amount of jail time I can give you that is going to bring Cody back and take away the pain you feel for causing his death,” she said.

After the sentencing, several family members sobbed and comforted each other in the hallway outside the courtroom.

James Czerpak called Schaffer’s sentence “garbage.”

“It’s unbelievable!” he said. “I’m going to go out and kill someone if all you get for killing someone is six years!”

 

Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, swarsmith@thebeaconjournal.com and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.