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updated: 12/30/2010 11:53 PM

$1 million bail in Plato Twp. DUI crash

Crash suspect has a long rap sheet

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  • Eric M. Barth

    Eric M. Barth


Bail was set at $1 million Thursday afternoon for a 21-year-old Ohio man accused of severely injuring a Hampshire couple in an alcohol-related crash Wednesday night in Plato Township.

Calling Eric M. Barth a "flight risk and clearly a danger to the public," Kane County Associate Judge James Hallock granted prosecutor Steve Sims' request for the high bail. Should Barth be released by posting $100,000, he will be required to abstain from alcohol, and he will wear an electronic anklet that monitors alcohol consumption.

A blood test taken at Sherman Hospital in Elgin after the crash indicated Barth had a blood-alcohol content of .271, more than three times the legal threshold, according to court records.

Barth, who previously lived in South Elgin, faces six counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol. The counts are aggravated, Sims said, because he is accused of driving without a valid license and because the crash caused "great bodily harm."

Barth was also ticketed for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, improper lane use, driving without a valid license, and illegal transportation of alcohol.

Barth appeared in court with his left hand bandaged due to a cut suffered in the crash, which happened at 9:45 p.m. on Plank Road near Brier Hill Road.

Police say he was driving a Chevrolet pickup truck east on Plank at 50 mph and entered the westbound lane, hitting a GMC Denali head-on. The passengers in the Denali -- Robert and Heike Wehrle, who live on Plank Road -- were taken to Provena St. Joseph Hospital in Elgin.

Robert Wehrle, 64, who was driving, suffered a broken vertebrae in his neck. His wife, 69, underwent surgery for internal injuries. Sims said she is breathing with the aid of a ventilator.

A passenger in Barth's truck, Kyle D. Gunderson, 20, of Hampshire, was treated at Sherman Hospital and released.

A Hyundai Sonata, driven by Emily Murray, 25, of Sycamore, was traveling west behind the Denali, was unable to stop and struck both vehicles. Murray and her passenger, Brandi Narola, 24, of Lake Zurich, were taken to Sherman Hospital and released, according to sheriff's deputies.

Sheriff's deputies reported finding two empty beer cans and two unopened beer cans on the floor of Barth's truck, near the foot brake.

Sims said he requested a high bail based on the severity of the injuries, Barth's criminal history of alcohol abuse, his residency out of state and the blood-alcohol reading.

The public defender requested a $50,000 bail. He said Barth, an unemployed welder, would live with family if released.

Sims told the court Barth is wanted in Lake County on a warrant for failure to appear in court after a conviction for consumption of alcohol by a minor, that Barth has a pending DUI case in Ohio, and that he was convicted in 2007 in Boone County of possessing ammunition without a valid firearm owner's identification card.

Barth pleaded guilty in 2008 in Kane County to attempted criminal damage to state-supported property (Burlington Central Unit School District 301). He had also been charged in that case with consumption of liquor by a minor, disorderly conduct and reckless driving, but those charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. In that case, he gave an address of the 1300 block of Sandhurst Lane in South Elgin.

Sims said it appeared Barth had also been charged with unlawful possession of firearms and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in DuPage County, but that he was not sure of the disposition of the case.

His next court date is at 9 a.m. Jan. 13 at the Kane County Judicial Center.