News 11 Special Report: Picking up the Pieces

As a parent, I can't imagine losing my child. Janet Fackelman was grief-stricken nearly two years ago when her oldest son, 17-year-old Charlie was killed in a car crash.

But that was just the beginning of her nightmare. Now she's also lost her husband Chuck. He's in prison because he took the law into his own hands, and Janet's left to pick up the pieces.

Janet sat down and spoke with News 11's Chrys Peterson in this news 11 exclusive. "When Charlie was born," she says, "Chuck sat in that delivery room crying, 'I have a son...I have a son..' The bond between your first born is always very strong...very strong."

From the day he was born, Charlie Fackelman was the apple of his parents' eye. With his red curls and freckles, Charlie stood out. As he grew, he was his dad's little buddy and a hero to his younger brother Jacob and sister Kelsey. He was a kid his friends wanted to be around.

Janet describes, "Charlie was one of those fun-loving kids everyone loved. If you were sad, he knew how to cheer you up. If you were having a bad day, he'd know how to make your day better."

These days, Charlie can't offer his mom a joke or a hug. Still, every Sunday, she comes to Resurrection Cemetery searching for comfort from Charlie. "I know that he would not be able to stand that our family is falling apart... and has fallen apart," she says.

The disintegration of the Fackelman family began with Charlie's death in June of 2006. He was riding around with some friends and threw an empty plastic bottle that hit a passing car. That driver -- Randy Krell -- started chasing the kids, and they crashed at the intersection of Whiteford Center and Clegg Roads. Janet and her husband Chuck raced to the hospital, but Charlie died in surgery.

"Chuck tried to bounce back at first," Janet explains, "He went right back to work, but shortly after that he started going downhill." Janet went on to say that Chuck wasn't eating. He wanted nothing to do with his other two children... that he wanted no responsibility at all."

Daughter Kelsey says, "It was weird because I was so used to being daddy's girl. And when he didn't want anything to do with me, I just didn't know how to react."

Chuck attended a support group, and his doctor put him on medication. But he became someone his family didn't recognize. As he withdrew from them, he became focused on the court proceedings related to his son's deadly crash.

Charlie's best friend, Austin Oberle was charged, along with 52-year-old Randy Krell, the driver who chased the kids that night. Chuck Fackelman made it clear he blamed Krell for his son's death, and his wife believes the anger and grief caused him to suffer a mental breakdown in March of 2007.

Charlie was a baseball player for Whitmer. Chuck became distraught after watching Whitmer's home opener, and he showed up at Randy Krell's home threatening him with a gun. Krell wasn't hurt, and Fackelman was taken to a psychiatric hospital.

Janet explains, "They put him on a medicine for psychosis because they believed he had a psychotic episode. You could see him starting to come back to being himself."

As Chuck was recovering, Austin Oberle pleaded guilty to felonious driving and involuntary manslaughter. He served four months behind bars. Randy Krell was convicted of negligent homicide and served six months in prison.

Chuck had his own charges to face for his attack on Randy Krell. When the jury found him guilty but mentally ill, his family was hopeful he'd be sentenced to a mental hospital to get the help he needed. Instead, many people were shocked when Chuck Fackelman was sentenced to 5 3/4 to 20 years in prison.

Son Jacob says, "We all knew that he did it. Then again, there was clearly evidence that he wasn't there." He went on to say, "Not only did I lose a father, he was my best friend -- my golfing buddy. We did everything together."

Janet Fackelman's trying to hold her life together by holding onto memories of Charlie and holding on to hope that her husband will be released from prison. "Chuck was the breadwinner of the family. We've lost 75 percent of our income. I work in daycare. I'm trying to make life as normal as possible, but they can attest I lose it a lot. It's a lot of stress, a lot of decisions I have to make."

She's not asking for sympathy. She doesn't even expect compassion. But she does wish that people weren't so quick to judge. "If you lost a child," she says, "You don't know how you'd react. Nobody knows how you're going to react, and Chuck broke. His heart's broken. He lived his life through Charlie, and he couldn't live without him."

Janet is very worried that Chuck's not getting the medication and mental support he needs in prison. They are appealing the conviction, but the Fackelman family has also set up a petition to try to get Governor Granholm to commute his sentence. They're asking people to read it and sign the petition if they support it.

Posted by LS