During her sentencing hearing, Dauphin County President Judge Richard A. Lewis stated to the Bishop McDevitt High School teacher, Randi Zurenko, that she must have what he called a “Jekyll and Hyde” style of personality, saying that she was supposed to protect and nurture her students instead she preyed upon them like a twisted huntress.
The now 33-year-old Zurenko, who was a married mother of five children herself, and also who once was hailed as one of Bishop McDevitt High School’s most inspiring teachers, was called a "predator” now by one of the fathers of her female student victims.
As a teacher she was supposed to assist the children into blossoming into respectful and bright young adults, but instead this vicious and demented woman broke their spirits and will have forever tormented their futures.
One of the female victims of her sexual abuse described the horrors she endured as Zurenko both “manipulated her psychologically for years” she said, which she claims “led her into a pit of emotional darkness” trying to recover from the torment.
Law enforcement Investigators said that Zurenko once took the girl home and drugged her, giving her alcohol as well, before then taking advantage of her by massaging the young girl's back and sticking her hands inside her bra physically molesting her body.
The young victim told Judge Lewis after the abuse she fell into deep depression, became isolated from family and friends, cut herself and thought of suicide often. She said she feared telling anyone, and was also embarrassed.
"You stunted my growth because I depended on you," she told Zurenko in open court, who looked incredibly nervous standing before the judge. She said Zurenko's acts "slowly shattered every belief I held."
"I felt so confused and abandoned and trapped," she added. "I trusted nobody. You took everything that was mine. I'm still feeling the impact. I don't think it's close to over. You took my innocence. You used my love."
Yet, she said, "I have no ounce of hate for you in my body."
The second victim testified and then asked Lewis to show leniency for the sake of Zurenko's children. "I kept it together. I was OK. I'm still OK," she said.
The Harrisburg Police said Zurenko also had a sexual relationship with that victim.
The father of the first student spent a long 45 minutes describing his family's trauma in his testimony. He called the savage crime "surreal" and said, "My daughter lost three years of her life" because of Zurenko's "psychological manipulation. "
Her lawyer, Lee Cohen, insisted that Zurenko is a good person who was truly in love with her victims. He asked Lewis to sentence Zurenko to house arrest.
Zurenko’s attorney pleaded with the Judge to show her mercy. She claimed her client was truly in love with the victims, and not just a child sex predator.
The judge did give Zurenko a fair chance to speak her mind during the trial, in which Zurenko herself stood before the court and testified showing some remorse for her actions.
"I am ashamed to be here," Zurenko told Lewis. "I have never coerced anyone. I have never taken advantage of anyone."
Zurenko went on to state that, "I'm asking you today for grace and mercy and to take my children into consideration when you determine my sentence.”
Judge Lewis eventually sentenced the former teacher and now child sexual predator to eleven and a half to twenty four months in prison. Judge Lewis also said he did factor her kids into his equation when doling out the punishment for the disgraced teacher.
Yet he also said the pain one victim and her parents voiced so emotionally during the two and a half sentencing hearing would forever make any sentence he issued not enough to heal their lifelong wounds.
Judge Lewis said that he chose that punishment in order for the prison sentence to be followed by a minimum of four years of probation and five hundred hours of community service after considering the children of Zurenko.
Zurenko, who lives in Millerstown, Perry County, begged the Judge for leniency for the sake of her children, ages 11 to 3. She had agreed plead guilty to multiple charges including institutional sexual assault, unlawful contact with minors, corruption of minors, possessing child pornography and disseminating obscene materials to minors.