DUI Driver Found Guilty

By Dick Johnson and BJ Lutz
|  Wednesday, Jun 30, 2010  |  Updated 7:54 PM CDT
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An Aurora woman has been found guilty of 21 counts of drunken driving and reckless homicide in connection with a 2007 crash that killed five teenagers.

An Aurora woman has been found guilty of 21 counts of drunken driving and reckless homicide in connection with a 2007 crash that killed five teenagers.

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An Aurora woman has been found guilty of 21 counts of drunken driving and reckless homicide in connection with a 2007 crash that killed five teenagers.

Sandra Vazquez looked straightforward and sat erect as the verdict was read in the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville on Wednesday.  When the guilty verdict came in the reckless homicide charge, she looked down and then regained her composure.

Her lawyer appealed for bond with GPS monitoring, which Judge Clint Hull immediately refused.

"I'm sorry the presumption of innocence has been removed today," he said.

Vazquez then broke into tears and began convulsing and was immediately led out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies.  In the gallery, a man with Vazquez's sister yelled out, "Stay strong, Sandra."

She was allowed to call her children, ages 4 and 8, to inform them of what happened.

The verdict came on the second day of deliberations

Members of the five woman, seven man jury declined to comment publicly on the case.  Defense attorney Kathleen Colton said that indicates to her that the verdict was a difficult one for them to reach.

"They did not want to have to justify it.  They were emotional.  Some appeared to be crying," she said.

Prosecutors alleged that Vazquez was intoxicated on Feb. 11, 2007 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.

Colton maintained the Vazquez wasn't intoxicated but instead was distracted by the number of people in her car and the commotion they were causing.  Vazquez herself testified that she gave the drunken teens a ride because she felt badly that they were stuck at a party with no way home.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Aug. 27.  She faces 28 years in prison.

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