A Costa Mesa male nanny who sexually abused sixteen boys and showed pornography to a 17th child was sentenced Friday afternoon to 707 years and eight months to life in prison.
The lengthy prison term for Matthew Zakrzewski, 34, came a month after an Orange County Superior Court jury convicted the defendant of 34 felony counts following a nearly month-long trial in a Santa Ana courtroom.
Zakrzewski — who described himself as a “manny” — videotaped many of the molestation crimes, footage that prosecutors relied heavily on as evidence during his trial.
The sentence means he would have to do at least 707 years before being eligible for parole.
Parents described initially being impressed by Zakrzewski and his background, as well as his rapport with their boys. But Orange County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Menninger noted that Zakrzewski took advantage of the parents’ view of him as “perfect, smart, fun and moral” in order to gain unfettered access to the boys and to manipulate them into not saying anything about the abuse.
“They believed you were the manny who would provide for their kids,” the judge said. “The truth was, you actually abused that trust from the beginning.”
“We watched you turn molestation into a game,” the judge added, referencing the video evidence shown to jurors during the trial.
Parents of the young victims described being blindsided when the abuse came to light, and feeling betrayed by a man they learned had groomed and molested their children. Zakrzewski appeared to listen intently as the family members spoke.
“Was it worth it?” One mother asked Zakrzewski. “Did you get what you wanted? I fail to see how you thought this was going to go any other way. What did you think was going to happen? You were eventually going to get caught. And all our lives were going to be destroyed.”
Several parents spoke about the guilt they still feel at bringing Zakrzewski into their children’s lives. One mother said her son developed ulcers at the age of 8 in the midst of the abuse.
“The weight of carrying this secret was literally eating him up inside,” she said.
Another mother — whose boy was molested by Zakrzewski beginning either shortly before or sometime after his third birthday — said she is unable to “quantify or even qualify the impact to our lives…
“Our boy was so little, I can’t know what he could have been otherwise,” the woman said. “I can’t meet the boy he would have become.”
Zakrzewski in brief remarks to the families and the judge said he still wants the boys who were once under his temporary care to “shine bright.”
“I have meditated over their point of views, I have paid close attention at trial and to their statements today and it brings me a lot of pain,” Zakrzewski said. “I prided myself on bringing smiles to your children and all the good times we shared were 100 percent genuine.”
Over a five-year period starting in 2014, Zakrzewski cared for the children of more than a dozen families across Southern California, often convincing them to hire him by touting his experience working with children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities. His victims included some boys with special needs, according to testimony during the trial.
Zakrzewski was arrested by Laguna Beach police in May 2019, after a boy told his parents that his nanny had molested him.
Laguna Beach detectives soon learned that another boy had accused Zakrzewski of similar conduct in Los Angeles a year earlier. That boy had initially refused to talk to an interviewer after telling his mother about the alleged abuse. But during a second interview following Zakrzewski’s arrest, the boy described Zakrzewski molesting him.
Detectives found “thousands of photos and thousands of videos” Zakrzewski had taken of the boys he was watching on his cell phone, digital camera and computer. Prosecutors described him “obsessively” recording “every act with the children.”
After news of Zakrzewski’s arrest became public, more families stepped forward to accuse him of molesting their children.
Zakrzewski’s attorney acknowledged during the trial that Zakrzewski showed pornography to some of the boys, but argued that some of the things he recorded — including kids “running around” in their underwear — did not constitute “harmful” matter as alleged in the criminal charges.
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