After his vehicle was disabled in a minor traffic accident, Frank Caruso climbed into the back seat of a police cruiser to warm up while waiting for a tow along I-290 in Addison.
That's when a drunken driver smashed into the squad car, killing the 42-year-old Brookfield man and seriously injuring Illinois State Police Trooper Matthew Woodiel.
On Monday, Caruso's loved ones breathed a collective sigh of relief as Daniel Clark, 34, pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI charges in the February 2012 crash.
"I know he didn't mean to kill my brother, but he does have to take accountability for what he did," Caruso's sister, Anna Marie Caruso, said outside of court.
Assistant State's Attorney Cathy DeLaMar said Clark registered a blood alcohol content of 0.20 -- more than twice the legal threshold -- after the 1:20 a.m. crash east of Mill Road.
She said the squad car had been parked behind Frank Caruso's vehicle in the left and middle lanes of traffic with its blue-and-red oscillating lights activated.
Clark struck the squad "without slowing or braking," DeLaMar said. The force was so great, she said, Woodiel was thrown into the back seat as the vehicle went into a tailspin.
Clark, of Chicago, later told police he drank several glasses of wine at a bar earlier that night. Prosecutors have said he also was talking on a cellphone and driving 73 mph.
"Although he remembered leaving the bar, he could not remember how long he had been driving," DeLaMar told DuPage County Judge Kathryn Creswell, who accepted Clark's plea.
Prosecutors said Woodiel suffered a serious head injury that kept him off the job for several weeks. Caruso, who had been sitting in the cruiser's back seat, died of multiple injuries.
Caruso's mother, Mary Ann Caruso, said Clark "took a precious life" when he killed her son, a professional painter and a "proud" father and grandfather.
She said the accident happened 19 days after her son's father died.
"Daniel Clark made an unintentional mistake," she said. "(But) justice has to be done."
In exchange for Clark's admission of guilt, prosecutors agreed to cap their sentencing recommendation at 12 years in prison when Clark otherwise would face up to 14. He also could receive probation if the defense proves "extraordinary circumstances" warrant it.
Defense attorney Jack Donahue said Clark was employed in sales and marketing before the crash. He has expressed deep remorse for his actions, Donahue said.
"It's another example of a fine young man -- a good education, a good family -- in one of these tragic circumstances," Donahue said.
Clark, who remains free on bond, is scheduled for sentencing in October.