The court made very sure 18-year-old Kevin Schuh knew exactly what he was doing when he entered a guilty plea Monday to the charges that his drunken driving cost Hersey High School sophomore Monika Skrzypkowski her life.
The Mount Prospect man entered a blind plea, meaning he pleaded guilty without benefit of a sentencing agreement, effectively throwing himself on the mercy of the court. However, his plea doesn't guarantee leniency.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Scotillo reiterated to Schuh that neither prosecutors nor the court had agreed upon a sentence. Schuh, of the 1700 block of Kensington, indicated he understood.
"If you're sent to prison, there's a possibility your sentences will be served consecutively," said Scotillo, while Schuh's mother sobbed quietly in the gallery.
Again, Schuh indicated he understood.
"Is it your desire to plead guilty today?" asked Scotillo.
"Yes sir," said Schuh.
"Are you sure?" asked Scotillo.
"Yes sir," said Schuh, who admitted driving drunk on the night of December 6, 2008, and striking the 15-year-old Arlington Heights resident with his car as she crossed the street in the 200 block of North Elmhurst Road in Prospect Heights.
As she has on every court appearance, Monika's mother Margaret Skrzypkowski sat clutching a large binder with Monika's photograph on the front cover. Visibly distraught family members declined to comment on Monday's proceedings.
On that night two years ago, Skrzypkowski was waiting with friends for her parents to pick her up from her boyfriend's birthday party when she was struck by Schuh's car and hurled into the air, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke. She died a short time later from her injuries, Clarke said.
Prospect Heights Police Cmdr. Al Steffan said the there were no drugs or alcohol in the victim's system. "She was at a supervised holiday party," Steffan said. "She was waiting for her parents."
If he were called, a 24-year-old acquaintance of Schuh's would testify that Schuh asked him to buy several cases of beer and 1.75 liters of vodka, which the teenager brought to a party at the home of a girlfriend whose parents were out of town at the time, said Clarke. The man would also testify that the defendant called him and asked him to purchase more beer, Clarke said. The witness would testify that Schuh appeared drunk and that the witness warned him not to drive but Schuh ignored the warning, Clarke said.
A teenage friend would also testify that Schuh had been drinking beer and vodka, and that Schuh drove fast when he took him home, Clarke said. Lastly, a forensic chemist and toxicologist would testify that he estimated Schuh's blood alcohol content at the time of the accident to be between .109 and .156, Clarke said.
Schuh pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated DUI causing an accident or death, failure to report an accident causing great bodily harm or death and making a false police report. If Schuh receives the maximum sentence on the charges running consecutively, he could spend 29 years in prison. Scotillo could also sentence him to probation.
Schuh and his family declined to comment, deferring to defense attorney Barry Sheppard, who said he hopes for a just disposition.
"Kevin has accepted responsibility," he said. "Most criminologists believe that's a step toward total rehabilitation."
The sentencing takes place Feb. 17 in Rolling Meadows.