A Lake County judge on Thursday found a suburban Chicago woman guilty of "huffing" a cleaning product before driving the car that killed a 5-year-old girl.
Carly Rousso, 19, of Highland Park pleaded guilty earlier this week to reckless homicide but remained on trial for aggravated DUI stemming from the September 2012 crash that killed Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento and injured the girl's mother and two infant brothers.
"Her intent was to get intoxicated," Judge James Booras said. "No doubt about it."
"When she huffed, she did not chose human life. She chose to be selfish," State's Attorney Stella Veytsel said, adding, "It wasn't a careless act. It was a conscious decision."
Prosecutors said Rousso got high in a Deerfield Walgreens parking lot on a compound commonly found in cleaning products, then got behind the wheel of her family's car where she lost consciousness and lost control of the car.
The car jumped a curb, prosecutors said, and ended up rolling over a family of four several times.
"For $22 she got a high, and a little girl is not here because of it," the prosecution said.
Jaclyn's mother, Modesta Sacramento, was the final witness for the state Tuesday, speaking through an interpreter.
"She ran over my daughter's legs, then came forward, and went over her again," Sacramento said.
Prosecutor Michael Ori then placed a picture of Jaclyn on the judge's bench, prompting Carly Rousso to put her head in her hands and start sobbing.
In a videotaped statement to police, Rousso said she was supposed to get something to eat that day, but she decided to go to Walgreens instead to get "Blast Away," a canned air product. "It was an impulse decision," she told Detective Gallagher.
Rousso admitted in the statement to huffing three times before the accident. When asked by the detective why she relapsed, Rousso answered, "I hate my life." She said she was depressed and has "a lot of pressure on me right now."
Despite spending time in rehab for suicide, drugs and alcohol, she told the detective she had never huffed while driving before. She said the next thing she remembered was looking at the steering wheel and someone knocking on her window. "It gets blurry after that," she said. "I don't remember stopping the car."
When officers on the scene of the crash approached Rousso, she told them "I need to be taken away. It was all my fault."
Police said toxicology reports showed a compound called Difluoroethane was detected in Rousso's blood. Difluoroethane is commonly found in cleaning air cans, which have been linked to huffing, the practice of inhaling the contents of the cans to get high.
Rousso's attorney said Tuesday the crash was a terrible and reckless act but the chemical in the computer cleaner is not illegal. The prosecution said a series of bad decisions by Rousso ended with the death of an innocent child, and she needs to pay for her actions.
Last summer Rousso's lawyer said she's suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and was admitted to an in-patient facility on Chicago's West Side.
After failed attempts to reach a plea deal, the trial of Rousso on a felony charge of aggravated DUI resulting in death is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Lake County Circuit Court.