Driver charged with DUI in crash that killed Rabun County jailer

A wrecker tows away the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck Courtney Faith Zajdowicz was driving when she was killed in a head-on collision with a suspected DUI driver. The crash happened on U.S. 441/GA 15 north of Clayton on Sept. 1, 2021. (photo by Ricky Parker)

The Rabun County Sheriff’s Office will retire the badge of one of its officers killed in a head-on collision. Chief Deputy Scott Cheek says the loss of Detention Officer Courtney Faith Zajdowicz is definitely “hard for our entire public safety community, her family and friends.”

The 26-year-old Mountain City woman died Wednesday evening in the crash on U.S. 441/GA 15 just north of Clayton. State Troopers say a suspected DUI driver crossed over the centerline and struck Zajdowicz’s pickup truck as she traveled south.

She made a positive impact

Zajdowicz worked for the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office from 2018 to 2020 and, according to Cheek, had just returned to the sheriff’s office this past July.

“Courtney would light up a room, eager to get to work and would always make a positive impact on those around her,” he says. “I truly believe that Courtney will continue to make a positive impact here at the sheriff’s office.”

Chief Deputy Cheek says Zajdowicz’s badge number 537 will be retired from the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office.

Before becoming a supervisor at the Rabun County Detention Center, Zajdowicz worked at Alto State Prison. She was currently taking online classes to become an EMT.

In her obituary, family members say Zajdowicz had a great personality and was always smiling. “She had a big heart and always tried her best to help those in need.”

“Such a tragic loss! To know her was to love her,” says Rose Lamberti in a Facebook tribute, “she was truly a great and unique person.”

Officer Zajdowicz is survived by her parents and grandparents. Her dog was with her at the time of the wreck. He survived but ran away, staying near to the site where the wreck happened. Law enforcement and neighbors worked with the family to catch the dog. Thursday night, her family finally caught him and took him home.

Driver charged

Authorities charged the other driver involved in the wreck, Jaime Avila-Reyes, 41, of Clayton, with DUI and first-degree vehicular homicide.

State Troopers say the driver of this smashed-up Chevrolet Silverado was DUI when he crossed over the centerline and hit Zajdowicz’s pickup head-on. (photo by Ricky Parker)

“During the investigation, the at-fault driver was determined to be under the influence,” Georgia State Patrol Post 7 Commander Donnie Sadler told Now Habersham.

Medics transported Avila-Reyes to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville where, as of late Wednesday, he was in stable condition. Sadler says more charges may be pending.

The Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team assisted in the investigation. The accident temporarily shut down the highway near the crash site at George Eller Curve. It reopened late Wednesday night.

Funeral services for Zajdowicz are scheduled for Saturday, September 11, at Beck Funeral Home in Clayton. Her family asks that in lieu of flowers, people donate money in Courtney’s memory to benefit local law enforcement.

Courtney Faith Zajdowicz obituary

This article has been updated with new information. 

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