After an eight-day trial, an Illinois jury has convicted Sandra Vasquez of aggravated drunken driving and reckless homicide in the deaths of five teens.
On February 11, 2007, about 30 teens were found partying in a Suburban Chicago home. A parent broke up the party and sent the teens home. Vasquez’s younger sister was at the party, and when Vasquez arrived to pick her up, seven other teens asked Vasquez to drive them home. Vasquez agreed, and the teens literally piled into her small sedan.
According to the Chicago Tribune, two teenagers were sharing the front passenger seat, four other teens were jammed into the back seat, and two other teenagers were on top of those teenagers’ laps.
A few minutes later, as the car was driving 70 mph down the highway, Vasquez swerved and then veered into a light pole. The two teens in the front of the car, and the two laying on the laps of the teens in back died instantly. One of the other teens died eight days later from his injuries. Vasquez and the other three teens, including her sister, also suffered injuries.
Vasquez admitted that she may have had as many as four drinks, but said she was not drunk. Chicago Breaking News reports that expert testimony showed that her blood alcohol level could have been as high as 0.124, putting her well over the legal limit. However, her blood alcohol level could have been as low as 0.04, the defense argued, because her liver was damaged in the accident, making testing difficult.
Vasquez was arrested and charged with 10 counts of aggravated drunken driving leading to death, six counts of aggravated drunken driving causing serious bodily harm, and five counts of reckless homicide. She spent the three years between the accident and trial out on bail by posting her parents’ home as collateral. She has lived “like a saint” since the accident, according to the Beacon News, spending her time taking care of her children, four and eight years old, and adhering to the rules of her probation.
The jury finally delivered its verdict on the crash on Wednesday, June 30: Guilty on 21 counts. Some members of the jury were visibly crying, clearly upset by what they considered their civic duty, reported the Naperville Sun. Most of the families of the victims consider the guilty verdict to be justice, but feel sympathy for Vasquez.
Vasquez’s attorney points out, however, that a woman trying to do the right thing by clearly intoxicated teenagers is also a victim of this terrible situation, and plans to ask for probation based on extreme circumstances. The District Attorney has already said that he will not cooperate with this request.
Ms. Vasquez’s bail has already been revoked, though she was given the chance to call her two children before being sent to jail. She will be sentenced in August and could face a maximum sentence of up to twenty-eight years behind bars.