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Article updated: 1/8/2013 12:24 PM

Mundelein man pleads not guilty in fatal crash

By Lee Filas

A Mundelein man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and other charges stemming from a fatal traffic accident after which he told police he drove into oncoming traffic to "test his mortality."

Mark Oelerich, 22, is also charged with counts of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs in the Nov. 21 crash in Round Lake that killed a 25-year-old Round Lake Beach mother and injured her three children.

If found guilty of the most serious first-degree murder charge, Oelerich could be sentenced up to 60 years in prison, Lake County Judge Christopher Stride said.

Oelerich, sporting a full beard and black rimmed glasses, showed no reaction and asked no questions of the judge when prompted to do so at the end of his arraignment hearing.

Oelerich is accused of intentionally driving into oncoming traffic while heading north on Cedar Lake Road at 9:17 p.m. on the night before Thanksgiving, authorities said.

Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette said Oelerich was driving a family member's Cadillac SUV when he crossed the centerline on Cedar Lake Road near Route 120 and struck a vehicle driven by Araceli Villasenor as it headed south.

Gillette said Oelerich told investigators he had been "receiving signs from God that made him believe he was invincible," and that he "indicated that he caused the accident intentionally to test his mortality."

Villasenor and her three children were taken to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, where Villasenor was pronounced dead at 11:23 p.m.

Gillette said the children have since been released from the hospital.

Oelerich was released into police custody after being treated at the hospital, Gillette said.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ken LaRue said Oelerich was initially charged with driving under the influence of drugs, but charges were increased to first-degree murder after Oelerich's statements to police showed the accident was intentional.

LaRue said the state is waiting for more lab results that could lead to additional charges against Oelerich.

He remains in Lake County jail in lieu of $1 million bond. He is due back in court on Feb. 1.

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