Jury in Oswego Crash Case Requests to Review Evidence

Sandra Vasquez faces 28 years in prison for 2007 crash that killed five teens

By Dick Johnson and BJ Lutz
|  Tuesday, Jun 29, 2010  |  Updated 8:49 PM CDT
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Five teens were killed when this car, driven by Sandra Vasquez, struck a utlitity pole in Oswego three years ago.

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A Kendall County jury took a break from their first day of deliberations to make several requests to review evidence in the case against an Aurora woman charged with reckless homicide and aggravated drunk driving.

Sandra Vasquez faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted for the 2007 crash that killed five teens.

The jurors asked if they could review transcripts of the testimony of a pair of doctors who testified about blood tests taken from Vasquez at Rush-Copley Medical Center after the crash.  The request was approved, but the transcripts won't be available until Wednesday morning.

The jury also requested and were approved to again screen the videotaped interview that Oswego police conducted with Vasquez from her hospital bed on the afternoon of the accident.

Judge Clint Hull denied three other requests for pieces of information because they had not been entered as evidence during the trial.

Prosecutors allege that Vasquez was intoxicated when she drove her sedan full of eight teens down Illinois Route 31 in Oswego, lost control and hit a utility pole.  Killed were Jessica Nutoni, 15; Tiffany Urso, 16; Matthew Frank, 17; Katherine Merkel, 14; and James McGee.

In his closing statements, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Reidy said a conviction should be an easy task.

"We have presented to you an orgy of evidence proven scientifically beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Vasquez, 26, testified Monday that she agreed to drive the group of mostly drunken teens home from a party because she felt badly for them and wanted them to get home safely.

But Reidy told the court that the teens "asked the wrong person to give them a ride" and that "by allowing her car to be overcrowded with nine people and speeding as fast as she did, her good intention goes out the window."

Vasquez, who has two young children, denies she was impaired.  She says it was chaos in her car.  The teens weren't wearing seat belts and one of the headlights was out.  There was a sudden distraction and then the crash, she said.

The three survivors, who are present in the court but cover their faces, maintained during their testimony that they have no recollection of the crash.

"The three people in the front row don't remember what happened, or don't want to remember what happened (that evening), and therein lies the problem," said Attorney Kathleen Colton, according to the Beacon News.

The courtroom is packed with Vasquez's relatives and family members of the deceased.  

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