Wheels of justice in death of 5 year old North Shore girl grind slowly but surely

A five year old’s life cut short by alleged chemical DUI

Earlier this week, on Monday afternoon, Carly A. Rousso, who has lived out of state for the last 18 months but has been identified in the media as “of the 2300 block of Woodpath Lane in Highland Park,” was driving east in a Lexus Coupe on Highland Park’s  main drag, Central Avenue.  The Lexus suddenly crossed the two westbound lanes, went through five yards, or so, of parkway and entered the sidewalk in front of, or just east of the CORBE building at 777 Central  Avenue, striking a 25 year old mother, Modesto Santos-Sacramento, her five year old daughter and her four year old and two year old sons.   Modesto’s five year old daughter, Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was transported to Evanston Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, two and one half hours later, at 5:00 pm.

Carly Rousso: I did it. I did it.  

Reliable sources report that Rousso’s Lexus hit 5 year old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento and dragged her for about five yards across a portion of the parking lot before hitting the wall of a vacant building just west of the CORBE building.  Some reliable sources suggest that Rousso’s Lexus may have bounced off the wall of the vacant building and headed toward the CORBE  Building, about ten yards away.  Reliable sources indicate that Rousso appeared dazed as she left the car after the accident, looked at the accident scene and stated, “I did it. I did it.”

Rousso’s Lexus also hit Jaclyn’s mom, Modesto Santos-Sacramento, resulting in serious injuries including several broken limbs and Modesto is still at Evanston Hospital. Modesto’s two sons were treated at the Hospital and released. Prior to the accident, Modesto had been walking with her three children in the sidewalk on a pleasant, sunny afternoon.

Carly Rousso is the daughter of David and Gabrielle Rousso, who lead The Art Center-Highland Park. Gabrielle Rousso is the executive director and David Rousso is a board member. Carly Rousso is adopted and is apparently herself a Latina. She apparently has a clean driving record with the Secretary of  State's office but reliable sources report she has had drug possession/use problems in the past.

No immediate charges filed ?

Highland Park Deputy Chief of Police George Pfutzenreuter  put out a press release on Monday afternoon that did not identify the driver and stated that, “No charges have been filed at this time pending the outcome of the investigation,” being conducted by the Highland Park Police Accident Investigation Team, with the assistance of the Lake County Major Crash Assistance team and [in] collaboration with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office, headed by the Republican long time holder of that office, Mike Waller (who is not seeking re-election this November).

The Highland Park Police Accident Investigation Team is being headed by Sgt. O’Neill. Highland Park Police Department Commander Gerald Cameron is also overseeing the investigation. The Assistant State’s Attorney in charge of the investigation is Ken LaRue. Of course, Highland Park Police Chief Paul Shafer and State’s Attorney Mike Waller have ultimate responsibility for their offices’ roles in the investigation.

Police inappropriately  withhold name of Driver

On Tuesday afternoon, at 5:00 pm, Deputy Police Chief Pfutzenreuter put out another press release, stating that “Investigating officials are continuing to process the vehicle for evidence and determine [sic] if the impairment of the driver was a factor in the crash.”

The Tuesday afternoon Highland Park Police Department press release reiterated, falsely, but perhaps unintentionally, that “no charges have been filed at this time,” pending the results of the investigation and analysis of the evidence by the State Crime Lab. Mr. Pfutzenreuter stated to  this reporter in a face to face interview on Tuesday afternoon that “No charges had been filed,” and for that reason “The name of the driver of the Lexus who killed the five year old girl could not be disclosed to the media or the public.”

Misdemeanor DUI charge filed on Monday, Felony charge may follow  

Mr. Pfutzenreuter could have and should have  stated that a misdemeanor DUI traffic citation had been issued to Carly Rousso, an 18 year  old resident of Highland Park, and that she was released on an OR (Own Recognizance) bond. Pfutzenreuter could have and should have said that, at that time, that was the charge that was justified, based on the facts that were known, but that the investigation continued and more serious, e.g., Aggravated DUI, Class 2 felony (3 to 14 years of prison time, if convicted), charges might issue in the next week or two, once the full toxicology lab results were communicated to the Lake County State’s Attorney.

Deputy Police Chief Pfutzenreuter could and should have told the media that a breathalyzer was not administered at the accident scene because the kind of impairment that was suspected was not alcohol related but was chemical related and would only be detected by a blood test.  However, in order to be able to obtain the blood sample, a DUI citation had to be issued to Carly Rousso, and it was.

Toxicology tests for this chemical substance  can take weeks to complete     

The Highland Park Deputy police chief could have told the media that toxicology texts of the type at issue often take several weeks to complete, and that there are a relatively small number of labs that conduct the appropriate tests to detect the chemical at issue, but that given the gravity of this accident and the likely interest of the community in this issue, the law enforcement authorities were doing everything in their power to expedite the tests and hoped to have the results and investigation completed within the next week.

Instead, Pfutzenreuter told this reporter that no documents prepared at the time of the accident by the police would be made available to the press at this time, even if this reporter were to file a Freedom of Information Act request. He stated that nothing about the accident would be made available to the public or media prior to the police department’s completion of the investigation. Pfutzenreuter told this reporter that Police Chief Shafer, Commander Cameron and Sgt O’Neill were unavailable to answer any questions.

DUI ticket filed with Court, Case number assigned

Pfutzenreuter could and should have told this reporter that the Rousso DUI ticket would be filed with the Circuit Court of Lake County Clerk’s office soon, probably by Wednesday, and that the Clerk would assign a case number (which it did yesterday—12DT 1950) and that number could be used to track the status of the case with the court and the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office.

State’s Attorney, police, Mayor, Village Manager pow wow

Reliable sources indicate that all of the above was explained to Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering yesterday afternoon during a conference call involving personnel from the State’s Attorney’s office, the Mayor and Highland Park Village Manager’s office and Police. Notwithstanding that, the Mayor issued a press release yesterday, after 5:00 pm, stating that “The City Council, staff and I are frustrated by the delayed manner in which this [Santos-Sacramento] case is being handled.” Releasing the driver with no restrictions was a decision of the State’s Attorney.  This was a mistake and we are demanding an explanation.”

State’s Attorney office got it right; the Highland Park Mayor not  so much. 

It appears, based on the above, that the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office has gotten it right and the Highland Park Mayor and City of Highland Park Police Department got it wrong. This reporter called the Mayor’s office and police Chief’s office for specific comments on the above, but no response has been forthcoming.

The Highland Park Police Chief, Paul Shafer, reports to the City Manager, David Knapp,  and City Manager Knapp reports to the City Council and Mayor Rotering.  It appears, in this case, that the Police Department's improper withholding of  information from the community and media served to fuel unjustified assertions, speculation and sentiment in the Hispanic community that the law enforcement authorities were improperly protecting the accused because she was the daughter of privilege and the victims were Hispanic and perhaps undocumented residents of the United States.  The Mayor appeared to succumb to that pressure from a small segment of the Hispanic community, making unjustified allegations of her own.

Is Highland Park getting its money's worth from its City Manager?   

Highland Park's City Manager and his Deputy, Ghida Neukirch, who together earn about 300 K, or more, before we get to perks and benefits, perhaps could be expected to keep a tighter rein on the police department and see that they disclose the information they should and not hide it from the media and community. Indeed, perhaps the City Manager's office could handle full disclosure of police matters to the media and community and Highland Park could cut back on its costly, administrative police officer staff.   Sometimes, less is more (as in the number of Highland Park police officers). Sometimes, it is not (as in the amount of information disclosed to the media).

Judging the Mayor and City Council

The Highland Park Mayor may want to get better informed before she accuses law enforcement, e.g., the Lake County State's Attorney office, of acting improperly. Or, maybe Mayor Rotering needs to develop better listening skills. Or, maybe the Mayor was being too political and maybe she underestimated the fairness of the Highland Park Hispanic Community.  Also, the City Council may want to be a little more active in overseeing its Mayor,  City Manager  and police department.  After all, they weren't elected to be potted plants and cheerleaders for Highland Park employees, were they?

Tonight's rally at the Highwood Train Stop

A gathering  is scheduled for tonight at 5:00 at the Highwood train stop by a group of Hispanics and supporters.  The group will begin walking at 6:00 pm to the scene of Monday's accident at 777 Central.  What once was going to be a protest of "law enforcement inaction," appears now to be more of a celebration of the unity in the Highland Park community between Hispanics and Whites,  a sadness over the tragedy of  the loss of a five year old's life, some sadness for the Rousso family and the troubled, adopted, Latina, teen driver of the Lexus, Carly Rousso and a recognition of the complexities facing law enforcement in situations like this.

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My name is Jeff Berkowitz and that's what I think. I am certainly not a potted plant.   You can watch Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz here and every Monday and Wednesday at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 19 in Highland Park.  Please go here for an airing schedule for Public Affairs in the cities of Chicago, Rockford, Aurora and in 34 North and Northwest Chicago Metro suburbs.

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Comments

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  • The drunk driver should be in prison. This is horrible!

  • I completely agree! What a horrible tragedy!

  • No allegation she was drunk. Perhaps she had an illegal chemical in her blood system. We'll find out from the blood tests.

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