Family Seeks Justice for Chicago Musician Killed in Wrong-Way Crash

Family members of Juan Carlos Salazar, a Chicago musician who was killed when a drunk driver hit his band’s van on Interstate-290 last year, say they hope a judge sentences the young man charged in the crash to several years in prison. 

The crash happened near Forest Park in January 2015, when a wrong-way driver struck a van carrying members of the Chicago-based band Escuela De Rancho. Salazar was killed and several others in the van were injured. 

“We have to deal with the fact he’s not with us anymore physically and emotionally,” said bandmate Gessiel Gutierrez. 

Police charged then 21-year-old Matthew Bougher with aggravated drunk driving resulting in death. Prosecutors allege he had a blood alcohol content of more than three times the legal limit when he drove the wrong way onto the interstate. 

Attorneys say Bougher is expected to plead guilty and could face three to 14 years in prison. 

“To Matthew’s credit, he does seem very remorseful,” said the Salazar family’s attorney Gloria Schmidt. “This is a tragedy. Even if you were to give Matthew a life sentence, it doesn’t bring Juan Carlos back.” 

Marchers outside the courthouse in Maywood Monday urged the judge to levy a stiffer penalty.

Salazar’s parents, who now care for their 5-year-old granddaughter, traveled from Mexico to attend the sentencing hearing this week. 

“We're looking at an innocent father, a wife, young daughter in Mexico, where's the justice for them?” said Schmidt. 

Bougher’s attorney did not respond to numerous requests for comment. A plea and sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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