After her son was killed by a hit-and-run driver, Peggy Ghysel made a ritual of visiting his grave each Sunday, then swinging by the convicted motorist’s home to see whether he was violating probation.
She had a hunch that Patrick Zarcone would ignore a judge’s warning not to drive again. It took two years, but her hunch paid off. One day, Ghysel watched him drive off, trailed him for a mile, then took his photograph as he waited at a stop sign.
“He just looked at me and said ‘Smile!”’ she recalled Saturday. “I just thought, ‘He doesn’t remember who we are. It doesn’t even bother him.”’
Confronted with the snapshot, Zarcone pleaded guilty Friday to violating his probation, earning him a year in prison.
Kevin Ghysel, 22, was killed in February 1993 while riding his bicycle home from his job as a chef in a country club.
Zarcone, now 31, was arrested two years later, when his girlfriend blurted her suspicions to a friend. He told police the bicyclist had darted in front of his car and he didn’t stop out of fear of losing his job.
He admitted leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, drawing six months in jail and five years’ probation. The judge emphasized that he was prohibited from driving a car for five years.
That’s when Ghysel, a deputy clerk in federal court, began keeping watch.
“Some people would probably think it was morbid, but I just don’t think he had that remorse that most of us would have,” she said. “If he had said right off the bat, this was an accident, I could understand - things like that could happen to anyone of us. But to not say anything!”
She finally caught him on the July Fourth weekend, as Zarcone headed off with fishing gear in the back of his car.