Prosecutor Expresses Regret To Victim's Family
Twenty-five years after his
girlfriend died in a plane crash in a Montana lake, Jerry Ambrozuk
was sentenced Monday to a 10-year suspended sentence after pleading
guilty to criminal mischief and criminal endangerment in connection
with the death of Dianne Babcock.
Ambrozuk, who has been living under the assumed name of Michael
Smith in Plano, TX since 1982, told a US district court he had
tried to save her before swimming ashore with a duffel bag and
The sentence will be served concurrently for both counts, with
credit for time already served in jail.
Originally charged with negligent homicide, prosecutors agreed
to drop that charge -- and one of theft, related to the rented
Cessna 150 -- in a plea bargain with Ambrozuk last week, according
to the Vancouver Sun.
As ANN reported, it all
started on August 22, 1982 when a 19-year old Ambrozuk and his
18-year old girlfriend, Dianne Babcock -- both Canadians -- took
off from the airport in Penticton, British Columbia, headed for
The couple ended up over Montana, which Ambrozuk said was part
of a plan to elope with Babcock. The plane then crashed into Little
Bitterroot Lake in Flathead County. Phone calls to a friend
indicated Ambrozuk planned to ditch the rented C-150 in the lake,
after which he and Babcock would swim free of the wreckage and
disappear to start new lives in the US, but Ambrozuk maintained
Babcock's seatbelt had jammed and there was just no way he could
get her out.
But several authorities, who've been pondering this case for
more than two decades... say they think Ambrozuk planned the whole
thing just the way it turned out.
"We didn't really believe we would find the plane in Bitterroot
Lake," one of those officers, Sheriff Jim Dupont, told the
Kalispell Daily Inter Lake newspaper, adding neighbors hadn't
reported a plane crashing into the lake.
That was before they found evidence of a campfire on the shore
of the lake, however. In the ashes of that fire, they found a gust
lock and microphone cable from the Cessna. They also found a
waterproof bag tied to a rope not far from the campfire.
They searched the lake bed for days... finally finding the
wreckage, and the young woman's body, 220 feet below the surface.
And no... they say... her seatbelt wasn't jammed.
"It still bothers me that he had an opportunity, not only after
the crash, but for the next 24 years" to come forward, Dupont said.
"If it happened the way he said it did, then why didn't he come
His lawyer, Chuck Watson, said Ambrozuk was not a strong
swimmer, and used the duffel bag containing the couple's money
merely to get to shore. He then spent the next 24 years living
under the assumed name in Texas, starting a software company and
living a comfortable life.
Watson said the bag had ended up in the water during the
"He didn't make any effort to get anything out of the plane
except Dianne," Watson said. "This idea that he took the money and
left her to die is a fantasy."
Ambrozuk isn't a free man just yet. He remains in custody
pending a federal sentencing on charges he held a fraudulent U.S.
passport. Watson said deportation to his native British Columbia is
likely once he has served his time which could be eight to 14
months in a detention center.
Prosecutor Ed Corrigan said he accepted Ambrozuk's plea bargain,
because he was satisfied he never intended to hurt Babcock... but
he also feels he let down the Babcocks, who can't believe their
daughter willingly ran off with Ambrozuk in the first place.