Suspect in fatal crash driving 128 mph, 3X legal limit

From the Chicago Tribune:

Ciro Reyes Ramirez and his son had only been parked for a moment near the Tinley Park bar they were headed to clean early Tuesday morning, when a car allegedly speeding along Oak Park Avenue plowed into them from behind, he said.

Reyes Ramirez’s 20-year-old son Alberto Reyes, his youngest, was killed in the crash and he was injured. The driver of the other car, Joseph Vorberg, of Oak Forest, was drivingat about 130 mph, with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, when he crashed into their parked car, prosecutors said.

Vorberg fled the scene on foot after the crash, prosecutors said Thursday at the Cook County courthouse in Bridgeview. Police found him 30 minutes later, hiding behind a semitrailer that was parked near a Tinley Park bar, prosecutors said.

Vorberg, 37, of the 15300 block of Arroyo Drive, is facing charges including reckless homicide and aggravated DUI stemming from the crash. A Cook County judge set Vorberg’s bail on Thursday at $1 million.

Judge Peter Felice said Vorberg was a “danger to himself … and to the community,” based on the allegations presented in court.

Data pulled from Vorberg’s Cadillac ATS sedan indicated he was traveling 128 mph just seconds before he smashed into the parked car, prosecutors said.

Alberto Reyes was declared dead at the scene, prosecutors said. His father was treated at a local hospital for injuries that were not life threatening and released.

Vorberg had been drinking at bars in Tinley Park and Harvey before the crash, prosecutors said. He had been treated at a local hospital for his injuries.

A test conducted on Vorberg indicated that his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit, prosecutors said…

A GoFundMe page has been set up under Alberto Reyes’ nickname, Beto.

Vorberg is also charged with DUI, failing to give aid/information at an accident, improper lane usage and failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Vorberg returns to court Nov. 2.

LA Cop arrested in DUI crash that killed 3 just hours after he posted anti-DUI video

From Raw Story:

A Los Angeles police officer posted a “don’t drink and drive” Instagram video hours before he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence over a fatal crash that killed three people.

Edgar Verduzco, 26, was speeding on the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway in Whittier, southern California, when he struck the back of two cars, one of which was carrying three members of a family, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said, according to CBS Los Angeles.

The car carrying the family burst into flames and killed the three people inside. The victims have since been identified as Mario and Maribel Davila, a married couple, and their 19-year-old son Oscar Davila, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral costs.

Hours before the crash, a video was posted to an Instagram account belonging to Verduzco. The 10-second video featured a cartoon avatar honking the horn of a car, which is captioned #dontdrinkanddrive. The video appears to be shot in a bar; a glass of beer is seen in the background, KTLA 5 reported.

The Instagram account has not been confirmed as belonging to Verduzco, but other photos and videos posted on the account suggest it is his: one post in July has Verduzco’s name badge on display, KTLA 5 reported.

Verduzco was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and vehicular manslaughter and is being held on $100,000 bail, the The Washington Post reported. He suffered a broken nose in the incident.

Read the entire story here:  https://www.rawstory.com/2017/09/la-cop-posted-anti-drink-driving-video-before-crash/

Man who crashed car while driving drunk and having sex, killing wife, gets prison term

Alcohol loosens one’s inhibitions and judgment.  This is a case where one man’s poor decisions resulted in a fatal accident that took the life of his wife, got him sent to prison, and left two young children without their parents.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution (story by Daphne Duret):

Calling it one of “the most senseless, tragic acts” she’s ever come across, a Palm Beach County judge sentenced a 33-year-old Loxahatchee husband and father to five years in prison Wednesday for a 2014 wreck that killed his wife as they had sex while he drove drunk.

The sentence for Matthew Notebaert came just over three years after the death of his wife, Amanda, in a crash that left their two children without a mother and caused a deep rift between the couple’s families that even on Wednesday had her closest friends and relatives split into two camps…

They’d begun drinking from a small flask of Crown Royal they’d sneaked into the concert in her purse, he said, and as they headed back to the area of their Loxahatchee home they called friends looking to hang out. Then at one point they pulled over and became intimate.

By the time he drove on Southern Boulevard, Notebaert said, his wife was sitting in his lap, and his next memory after a turn of the wheel was of waking up in a crashed car next to her body.

Investigators say Notebaert turned onto East Stallion Drive at about 12:30 a.m. and drove the couple’s Chevrolet Equinox at speeds of 55 miles per hour in a 30-mph zone, blowing past three red signs on the dirt road warning of a canal ahead.

The couple’s car hit the canal back so hard, according to arrest reports, that the SUV went airborne for 30 feet and came to rest on the opposite bank of the canal. Amanda Notebaert’s head hit the dashboard and windshield. She died at the scene.

A toxicology report from after the crash stated Matthew Notebaert’s blood alcohol content was nearly twice the level at which Florida drivers are presumed impaired, and investigators said he also had marijuana in his system.

“You had a responsibility to get your wife home safely,” Amanda’s father, Mike Stacey, told Notebaert before asking Johnson to give his son-in-law the “maximum allowable sentence.”

But even prosecutors said under the circumstances, the 10-year minimum recommended under sentencing guidelines was too harsh.

Notebaert’s attorney, Stehpen Bell, asked for no jail time at all, hoping Johnson would award Notebaert probation and keep him with the couple’s now 12-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.

Assistant State Attorney Danielle Sherriff, on the other hand, echoed Stacey’s sentiments and said Notebaert bares the blame because he was driving. Sheriff said a prison sentence was necessary and asked for a seven-year term.

In the end, Johnson noted Notebaert’s criminal history, saying he has been accused in the past of reckless driving and leaving the scene of a crash. Notebaert’s list of prior cases includes five felonies, Johnson said, and a prosecutor at his May 2014 bail hearing listed previous charges that included cocaine possession, burglary and grand theft.

“This isn’t your first chance. You’ve been to jail before, you’ve been on probation,” Johnson said, adding: “You failed your wife, you failed your children and you failed all your family that is here today.”

Read the whole story here:  http://www.ajc.com/news/florida-husband-having-sex-with-wife-fatal-dui-crash-gets-years-prison/lv6e4ZKN51ixZXaxtncVGM/

Court vacates 7 year sentence for woman who caused accident 2 days after smoking pot

Over four years ago, I posted this blog post entitled “Why is this woman facing 6 to 28  years in prison?”  It was about a young woman named Alia Bernard, who, two days after smoking marijuana, caused a fatal motor vehicle crash.  Under Illinois’ draconian “zero tolerance” laws, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for the crime of driving while there was still trace residue of marijuana in her system (and causing a fatal accident, which otherwise would have been mostly a civil matter).

Common sense (sort of) prevailed when a new judge vacated her sentence and sentenced her to probation instead (the judge that sentenced her to prison has retired).  I say that common sense “sort of” prevailed because I don’t think that there is any common sense to a law that punishes having traces of marijuana in your blood instead of punishing people that are actually under the influence; but under our ridiculous laws, probation was the best sentence she could get.

In Illinois, probation can only be given in a fatal DUI case when there are extraordinary circumstances (even in a case like this, when the person was not “under the influence”).  The new judge stated in re-sentencing Bernard: “The criminal act, which is the cannabis in the system, played no role in this action … the facts of this case are unique and for me, rise to the level of extraordinary circumstances.”

Congratulations to defense attorney Donald Ramsell, who took over the case and raised issues in the State Police crime lab’s blood testing that led to the new sentence.

“I do not deserve to be breathing the same air as all of you,” says fatal DUI crash defendant at sentencing

From the Chicago Tribune, story by Steve Schmadeke:

The mother of a promising University of Chicago Law School student sobbed Thursday as she talked in a Cook County courtroom about how a crash caused by a man driving the wrong way on Lake Shore Drive while drunk had forever changed two families’ lives.

Judith Wasil’s son, Michael, 24, suffered traumatic brain injuries, while his friend Laura Anne LaPlante, 26, also a U. of C. law student, was killed. Both were three weeks from graduation from the prestigious school.

“Certain truths that I had always taken to be self-evident were instantly shattered,” said Wasil, whose son did not attend the hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. “We were no longer a normal, happy family. My son was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to machines and fighting for his life. My family had suffered one of the worst tragedies a family can experience.”

The defendant, Erik Johnson, sat with slumped shoulders looking shellshocked as Wasil spoke. He briefly appeared to lose his composure and fight back tears as Assistant State’s Attorney Geraldine D’Souza read a statement from LaPlante’s parents wishing Johnson’s family well…

Johnson pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated DUI and was sentenced to eight years in prison as part of a deal worked out with the approval of both victims’ families. He must serve a minimum of nearly six years in prison.Johnson, at the time of the crash a recent Loyola University graduate who had been out drinking with co-workers, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.195 percent, about 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

His SUV, being driven south in the northbound lanes on a twisting curve of Lake Shore Drive near Navy Pier, smashed into a taxi carrying LaPlante and Wasil shortly before 2 a.m. in early May 2014. The impact knocked both into the taxi’s windshield. The driver, the only one wearing a seat belt, suffered a broken elbow.

Calling it “a heart-wrenching tragedy of the worst kind,” Wasil’s mother said the massive injuries at first left her son unable to swallow, eat, drink, walk, talk, read or write. He has recovered physically except for a pronounced limp, she told Judge William Lacy, but his brain injury “continues to be problematic” and is “essentially a life sentence.”

Wasil has difficulty even forming sentences, according to an attorney for the family…

Moments before the judge handed down the sentence, Johnson, now 25, apologized for his actions.

“I do not deserve to be breathing the same air as all of you,” Johnson told the courtroom. “I wish this senseless act had killed me alone because of my own mistake.

“I was brought up in a moral and ethical household where we were taught to respect life and a person’s free will,” he said. “No one in my family ever committed a crime, no one in my family ever hurt anyone. But in one night I lost complete control over everything I’ve ever been taught and everything I’ve ever believed myself.

“I have single-handedly taken away the life of a young woman already great but destined for greater things,” Johnson said. “I am devastated to think of what I have taken from you.”

Johnson, who vowed to work to prevent drunken driving after his release from prison, kept his eyes downcast as a deputy sheriff led him from the courtroom.

Read the full story here:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-lake-shore-drive-crash-law-students-met-20160204-story.html

Oklahoma State Homecoming Parade Crash is one of the most stunning and outrageous DUIs ever…or is it?

Over the weekend, we were all horrified by the aftermath of deadly crash at the Oklahoma State Homecoming Parade, which took the life of four people (including a two year old toddler) and injured 44 people.

Adacia Chambers, a 25 year old was arrested and initially charged with DUI.  Later, the charges were upgraded to Second Degree Murder.  Bond has been set at one million dollars.

But is it a DUI?  Results of toxicology have not been released yet.

The New York Daily News reports that:

Blood samples taken shortly after Chambers’ arrest will determine her alcohol toxicology at the time of the deadly collision, though witnesses have suggested she was distraught from losing her job — not drunk.

Chambers was reportedly fired from her part-time job at Stillwater’s Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, leaving the fast food franchise in tears a half hour before the crash, witness Justin Denoya told the Stillwater News Press.

“She didn’t appear to be under the influence,” Denoya said. “She was walking in a straight line and didn’t seem intoxicated.”

The suspect’s attorney, Tony Coleman, contends Chambers was by no means drunk. He smelled no trace of booze on Chambers during a jailhouse visit and did not believe the young woman to be in a “drunken stupor.”

“I absolutely can rule out alcohol,” Coleman added.

He suggested Chambers may have a “mental illness” or “blacked out,” a medical condition that only added to her confusion after the crash. She only remembers being taken out of her wrecked vehicle.

A photo of Chambers’ arrest at the scene shows her still wearing her black Freddy’s T-shirt.

“She doesn’t remember a whole lot about what happened. There was a period where I think … she could have even blacked out,” Coleman said.

Chambers was initially charged with driving under the influence, but police have not released any detail about her alleged intoxication.

Adacia Chambers' mug shot

Adacia Chambers’ mug shot

This is her mug shot.  She does not appear to have red, watery, glassy or blood-shot eyes, or a flushed faced, both of which are typical descriptions of drunk or drug impaired drivers.

Here is some more from CNN.com:

Chambers’ attorney Tony Coleman told CNN on Monday that his client was not drunk, though he said he’s making that determination based on meeting with her hours after the incident.

“I didn’t detect any signs nor was there an odor of alcohol coming from her body,” he said.

His client had a standard field sobriety test, he said. “Her poor performance” on that test led officers to believe she was “impaired,” he said.

Coleman said he believes she may have a mental health issue. During the hour he met with Chambers, he said, she gave “inappropriate answers” to his questions. He also said she had a “flat affect” when reacting to his description of the car crashing into the parade.

On Sunday, Coleman said that mental illness runs in his client’s family.

He also told reporters Sunday that “there have been warning signs coming from Ms. Chambers for quite some time, for the past few years.”

Coleman wouldn’t elaborate on what he meant by warning signs, but said the first thing he will request when Chambers appears before a judge Monday is a mental health evaluation.

I suggest that we all wait until the toxicology report comes out before making any initial conclusions.  Even then, we should wait until her defense attorney has had a chance to review all the evidence, including the details of how the toxicology tests were conducted.

22 year old woman charged with homicide after wrong-way DUI accident that killed off-duty police officer

saralopezA young woman is facing reckless homicide and aggravated DUI charges after a wrong-way accident on I-294 that took the life of a 27 year old off-duty Chicago Ridge Police Officer and former Marine.

From Fox 32:

A woman has been charged with DUI after causing a wrong-way crash last month that killed an off-duty Chicago Ridge police officer on the Tri-State Tollway near west suburban Oak Brook, police announced Friday.

Sara Lopez, 22, of Bristol, faces charges of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI involving death, according to Illinois State Police.

About 3:45 a.m. Sept. 13, Lopez was driving a Toyota Camry heading south in the northbound lanes of I-294 near Cermak Road when her car struck a Dodge Neon that was traveling in the correct direction, police said. The Camry struck the Dodge head on, causing the Camry to spin and then strike a Chevrolet that was also traveling in the correct direction.

Steven Andrew Smith, a 27-year-old off-duty Chicago Ridge police officer, was in the passenger seat of the Dodge and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy ruled his death an accident.

Lopez and the driver of the Dodge were both taken to Elmhurst Memorial Hospital non-life-threatening injuries, police said. The driver of the Chevrolet wasn’t hurt.

Smith, a Chicago Ridge resident, began as a part-time officer in the southwest suburb in 2010 before completing police academy and earning full-time status in February this year, according to Chicago Ridge police Chief Robert D. Pyznarski.

Smith, who joined the Marine Corps in 2009 and was still a reserve, is survived by his parents and brother, Pyznarski said.

“He was an excellent police officer and a friend to all of us here. We lost a big part of our family,” Pyznarski said.

Lopez was scheduled for a bond hearing Saturday.