Timothy Vandervere of Beach Park was convicted of killing members of a Kenosha family back in an April 2019 crash near Bristol, Wisconsin. Now, NBC 5 Investigates has found that Vandervere had a long history of citations, convictions and supervisions which never appeared on his public driving record.
In fact, a judge in Wisconsin had revoked Vandervere's Illinois license, but never notified the state, allowing him to continue to get behind the wheel of a car.
At approximately 6:45 p.m. on April 5, a driver called 911 as he drove along Highway 50, just over the Illinois border near Bristol, Wisconsin.
“I’ve got a white GMC truck – he almost rear-ended me three times!," the caller can be heard exclaiming.
Seconds later, the driver screamed out in horror as Vandervere's vehicle left the roadway.
“Oh my God! He just went off the side of the highway. Oh my God!," the driver yelled.
In that moment, Vandervere's vehicle had crashed into a Jeep SUV, carrying four members of a Kenosha family who were heading home from church. Three of them were killed, including Dr. Michael Rizzo, a long-time family practitioner in Kenosha; Michael’s brother Dr. Vincent Rizzo, a family dentist in Kenosha for more than forty years; and Vincent’s wife, Mary, a nurse.
Another brother, Gerald, was seriously injured.
Their deaths floored generations of local Kenosha families who’d been their patients.
“Any of them could have been retired,” said their pastor. “They loved what they were doing, and they did it right until the very end.”
Vandervere, 40 years old, of Beach Park, Illinois, was injured but survived the crash. The police report from that night shows he blew a .316 blood-alcohol level, nearly four times the legal limit.
This past September, in Kenosha County Court, Vandervere pled guilty to three counts of homicide by use of a vehicle, and one count of injury/use of a vehicle in connection to the fatal crash. He’s still in jail, and will be sentenced on Nov. 22.
All his life, Vandervere had carried a valid Illinois driver’s license, with only one mark on his official public driving record -- a single speeding conviction from 2013.
But NBC5 Investigates has searched through twenty local court databases and found that Vandervere in reality had more than thirty traffic stops and arrests that didn’t show up on his driving record, many involving alcohol and controlled substances, with multiple convictions, court supervisions, suspensions, and even a license revocation.
If all these cases been reported as required, NBC 5 Investigates found that Vandervere would have had his driver’s license suspended and even revoked for many more months and even years at a time, raising the question of whether he should have been driving at all when he killed three members of the Rizzo family.
In one of the instances dating back to Aug. 2005, Kenosha police arrested Vandervere, then 26, after he and his girlfriend had been drinking at several bars.
Police charged him with two drunk-driving offenses and a Kenosha judge ordered his Illinois revoked for one year.
But NBC5 Investigates discovered that – just days after that Wisconsin judge revoked his license – Vandervere walked into a drivers’ license facility in Illinois and claimed he’d “lost” his license.
On his application for a duplicate license, Vandervere was asked if his license had been revoked in any other state. He answered “no,” signed his name, and immediately got a replacement license.
How could this happen? Illinois is part of the Driver’s License Compact, a national agreement where most every state reports traffic convictions to the license-holder’s home state. So if you’re convicted for a traffic violation in Indiana, for example, they’ll report that conviction to Illinois.
Five states don’t participate in the Driver’s License Compact, and don’t report violations to a license-holder’s state: Maine, Georgia, Tennessee, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
Because of Wisconsin's decision not to participate in the agreement, Vandervere’s license was revoked for a year in the state, but in the state of Illinois, it was perfectly valid.
Illinois Secretary of State officials tell NBC5 Investigates that if Illinois had known of that revocation, the office would have suspended Vandervere’s license here as well. In addition, if Illinois had learned that Vandervere lied just days later, on his application for a duplicate license, the state would have taken away his license for much longer.
NBC5 Investigates showed the Secretary of State’s office all of the thirty-plus arrests and convictions we found for Vandervere, over the years, and the office confirms that they would have had a “domino effect” on subsequent tickets and convictions, resulting, in many cases, in harsher penalties, suspensions and revocations piling up on his record.
Instead, Vandervere’s record was almost clean. And when he got in his truck this past April 5, he did so with a perfectly valid driver’s license.
Immediately after Vandervere was charged in the fatal crash in April, the Illinois Secretary of State finally received his driving record from Wisconsin, which for the very first time reported his drunk-driving arrest from 2005, when Wisconsin revoked his Illinois license.
It was only then that the state of Illinois finally revoked it here as well, 14 years after the fact and five days after the three members of the Rizzo family were killed by Vandervere.
When NBC5 Investigates asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportation about Wisconsin’s non-participation in the Driver’s License Compact, and about the fact that Illinois did not receive information about Vandervere’s revoked license until fourteen years later, WDOT’s Office of Public Affairs emailed this statement:
“Wisconsin provided all the appropriate information to Illinois in a timely and proper manner. Membership in the compact would not have changed what information was shared, how it was shared, or how quickly it was shared.”
Pressed by NBC5 how a fourteen-year delay would ever be considered “a timely and proper manner,” Wisconsin officials revised their statement:
"The information regarding this conviction was entered into the national database that states check prior to issuing a license AND renewing a license. The information on this driver was available to Illinois for consideration each time they renewed his license."
A spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State's office told NBC5 that at the time of the accident, Illinois was not a participant in that database. But the revised Wisconsin statement didn't stop there:
"Wisconsin’s practice and procedures at the time of the 2005 conviction would have resulted in a written Notice of Conviction being provided to Illinois. Illinois requested a copy of this Notice of Conviction in 2019 and it was provided. This does not mean it was not provided in 2005."
Wisconsin authorities conceded, however, that they no longer maintain records from 2005, and can produce no documents to confirm that Vandervere's suspension was ever communicated to Illinois.