This is a follow-up to a story from two years ago. Two days after pleading guilty to felony DUI, Leslie Thurow did it again, this time seriously injuring an Illinois State Trooper who was conducting a traffic stop in I-294.
One thing that didn’t repeat was her sentence. She got probation for the earlier offense. This time, she got 13 years.
From the Chicago Tribune (story by Ted Gregory):
A chronic drunken driver who struck and nearly killed an Illinois state trooper in 2014 on Interstate 294 was sentenced to 13 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to aggravated DUI and leaving the scene of an accident with injuries.
Leslie Thurow wept through much of the hourlong hearing at the Maywood courthouse. Guidelines requiring her to serve a specified percentage of her sentence mean the Mount Prospect woman likely will end up serving nine years in prison.
“My thing with this is I don’t want to see her hurt anybody else again,” Trooper Michael Cokins, 30, said of the sentence. “Hopefully nine years prevents her from killing someone else or herself. She obviously has no regard for human life.”
A crying Thurow, 61, said she was “truly sorry” for striking Cokins about 2:45 p.m. Sept. 6, 2014, when he had stopped a motorist on the northbound Tri-State shoulder near Elmhurst. The trooper broke his shoulder blade, vertebrae, arm, leg, ankle, ribs and knees, among other injuries. He was confined to a wheelchair for three months, then crutches for five more months.
“I didn’t do everything I should have done to help myself,” Thurow added. “I pray for you every day.”
Law enforcement records show that the 2014 incident was Thurow’s third drunken driving crash in nine months. Two days before striking Cokins, Thurow was released on probation for a May DUI arrest in Brookfield.
After striking Cokins, Thurow continued driving north on I-294, hitting a retaining wall. That failed to stop her. Two miles farther along the interstate, she struck an SUV with seven occupants, including a 3-year-old boy. The SUV flipped, but none of the injuries to those inside was critical.
Thurow’s car struck a median, spun 180 degrees and came to a rest facing south. Cokins was in critical condition, and prosecutors were told he was not expected to walk again.
Over the next 14 months, he underwent surgeries and grueling physical therapy. He has about 55 screws and nine metal plates in bones.
After several setbacks, Cokins returned to work in December 2015, assigned to investigations. In June, he returned to patrolling the same stretch of interstate where he was hit.
Trooper Cokins’ recovery is an amazing story. Thurow’s prison sentence can’t get him back to where he was before this incident. But hopefully sharing this story will prevent future incidents like this from happening again.