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updated: 7/9/2013 6:48 PM

Bail lowered for Antioch teen charged in fatal drag race

Antioch teen faces new charge

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  • Jeremy A. Betancourt, 17, of Antioch

      Jeremy A. Betancourt, 17, of Antioch

 
 

Bail was lowered Tuesday for a 17-year-old Antioch Township boy charged with reckless homicide in the death of a teenage girl killed when he lost control of his car while drag racing last month in Gurnee.

Lake County Judge Raymond Collins ordered Jeremy Betancourt's bail lowered from $250,000 to $100,000, despite prosecutors filing an additional charge of aggravated driving under the influence. The new charge alleges Betancourt, of the 41000 block of North Circle Drive, had cannabis in his system at the time of the June 24 crash.

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Betancourt now needs to post $10,000 to go free while the charges against him are pending. If released, defense attorney Jed Stone said, Betancourt will be taken for an evaluation at an inpatient psychiatric program and live under a 24-hour curfew with electronic home monitoring.

Betancourt was charged last month with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing, driving without a valid driver's license and operating an uninsured vehicle after the June 24 crash that killed Cynthia Perez, a 16-year-old junior from Antioch High School.

Authorities said Tuesday toxicology reports show Betancourt had cannabis in his system when he lost control of his two-door Honda during a drag race at about 8:19 p.m. June 24.

Authorities said Betancourt was racing a red 2000 Ford Focus driven by Michael Dawson on Route 120, about a quarter-mile east of Hunt Club Road, when he lost control of the vehicle. The Honda slid into the center median ditch between the eastbound and westbound lanes, went airborne and rolled over before coming to a stop in the westbound lanes, authorities said.

Perez, of Antioch, was sitting in the back seat of the Honda with her boyfriend, Gio Bustos, 20, when it flipped over, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene after she fell out the rear window.

Betancourt, Bustos and another teen were taken from the scene to Advocate Condell Medical Center with injuries that were not life-threatening, authorities said.

Bustos and Perez's mother, Hilda Hinkle, were among those in court Tuesday for Betancourt's bond hearing.

"(Betancourt's) parents will get to bring him home," Hinkle said after the proceedings. "I have a lock of her hair and an urn of her ashes on my dresser. There is no justice in this. I don't understand how they allowed this."

Bustos, who has injuries to his arm and a long scar above his eye from the crash, said he and Perez were not wearing seat belts in the back seat because they had taken them off while screaming at Betancourt to pull the car over and let them out.

"He was switching lanes back and forth and was trying to get in front of Mike Dawson," Bustos said about the crash. "She told him to pull over and let her out of the car, but he refused. That's when he lost control."

He said he has been depressed since the crash and that Betancourt should spend a "long time" in jail.

"I wanted to marry that girl," he said. "I was deeply in love with her. I'm just hurting."

If found guilty of aggravated DUI, Betancourt could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison, Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ken LaRue said. Reckless homicide normally is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Dawson, 19, of the 400 block of Filweber Court in Antioch, is charged with aggravated street racing and operating a vehicle with an expired registration. If found guilty of aggravated street racing, he could spend up to three years in prison, officials said.

Dawson remains held in Lake County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail. A hearing on his case is scheduled July 22.

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