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Article updated: 7/17/2013 5:32 PM

Lake Zurich police: We still want driver who killed teenager

By Bob Susnjara

Lake Zurich police again are seeking the public's help in finding the driver in a hit-and-run crash that killed a teenage girl while she walked to Alpine Fest two years ago.

Police Cmdr. David Bradstreet said two large banners will go up off north- and southbound Church Street, calling attention to the crash that claimed the life of Gabriella Drozdz, 18, and injured two other teenage girls about 9:15 p.m. on July 22, 2011. Police made a similar effort last year.

Bradstreet said the campaign is designed to coincide with this weekend's Alpine Fest, starting Friday at Lion Fred Blau Park in downtown Lake Zurich, so visitors will be reminded of the tragedy and that the driver remains at large. The same banner used by police has been placed by Drozdz's family near St. Francis de Sales Parish at Buesching Road and Route 22 in Lake Zurich.

"We think about it all the time and we'd like to be able to solve it," Bradstreet said.

On the "Justice for Gabby!" banner is a notation of a $10,000 reward for information leading authorities to the driver. It also lists telephone numbers of the Lake Zurich Police Department and Lake County CrimeStoppers, Bradstreet said.

Authorities said a van struck Drozdz and her two friends from behind while they walked south on the gravel shoulder in the 100 block of Church Street. The site is across from the nearby May Whitney Elementary School and Lake Zurich High School.

Police said a light-colored GMC Safari or Chevrolet Astro van was seen being driven erratically south on Church Street before hitting the girls. It's believed the vehicle was from model years ranging from 1985 to 1994, had a license plate mounted high on its rear hatch and damage to the right-side turn signal and marker light.

In addition, police said, the van apparently was painted in two-tone blue, along with a possibly lighter color of silver or gray.

Bradstreet said four officers from the Lake Zurich police traffic unit continue to investigate the case. He said officers from other suburban agencies periodically contact Lake Zurich authorities and send pictures whenever they spot a van that resembles the one involved in the fatal crash.

"We occasionally get a tip on it and we follow up on it," Bradstreet said.

It's not impossible to solve old hit-and-run cases. Police in a small town in upstate New York received information in April that led them to the driver in a 45-year-old case.

Fulton police Sgt. Stephen Lunn said Wednesday that a retired detective's Facebook post about the case led them to the man who fatally crashed into a 4-year-old girl while she crossed a street with her teenage sister and a cousin in 1968. Lunn said the man -- who wasn't charged because of a statute of limitations expiration -- was identified by a Florida woman who saw the retired officer's post.

Lunn said Carolee Sadie Ashby never was forgotten by Fulton authorities, and tips were checked whenever they came in. He said the case went cold for 26 years, but police reopened it in 2000 and held a news conference to refresh memories about how Carolee had died.

"Never give up," Lunn said. "It took us a while to get to that point (driver identification), but we got there."

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