Nearly a year after a crash that killed two motorcyclists, an Aurora woman has been charged with felony reckless homicide and misdemeanor driving under the influence of cannabis.
Alia Bernard, 25, was indicted by a Kane County grand jury Tuesday, the Kane County State's Attorney's office announced Wednesday afternoon. Bernard turned herself in to sheriff's deputies earlier in the day, and paid $5,000 bond and was released.
She is accused of rear-ending a stopped car, pushing it into an oncoming group of motorcycle riders and causing a nine-vehicle pileup. Two of the riders, Wade and Denise Thomas of St. Charles, died at the scene. Twelve people were injured, police said.
The crash happened at 8:23 a.m. May 23, 2009, on Route 47 near Smith Road in Elburn.
About two dozen motorcyclists were heading north on Route 47. A southbound Cadillac was stopped, waiting for the motorcyclists to pass so it could make a left turn onto Smith. A Honda Civic was stopped behind the Cadillac. Police say Bernard's vehicle hit the Civic, knocking it in to the oncoming motorcyclists.
Survivors of the crash and fellow motorcyclists have wondered for a year why criminal charges had not been posted against Bernard. She was charged soon after the crash with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. But the state's attorney's office asked a judge to dismiss that ticket last July, saying it did not want to incur the risk of double jeopardy if its investigation later showed more serious charges were warranted. It also took months to get back toxicology results on Bernard, and the crash was complex to investigate, involving so many vehicles, according to Sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler.
If convicted of reckless homicide, Bernard faces probation or up to five years in prison. Her next court date is June 2.
Friends of the Thomases have planned a memorial gathering for Sunday morning at the crash site. They will erect a new cross at the intersection around 7:30 a.m., say prayers around 8:15, then have a moment of silence at 8:23 a.m.
Denise Thomas' sons from a previous marriage filed a wrongful-death suit against Bernard last July. The case has been continued, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation, according to court records.