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updated: 3/20/2014 4:47 PM

Heroin addict faces prison for death of Sycamore boy, 11

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  • Benjamin J. Black

    Benjamin J. Black


A Kane County judge will decide Wednesday how many years a heroin addict should spend in prison for a traffic crash last year in Virgil Township that killed an 11-year-old Sycamore boy.

Matthew Ranken died from his injuries after the Chevrolet Cavalier he was a back seat passenger in was rear-ended Feb. 27, 2013, by a sport utility vehicle driven by Benjamin J. Black, of the 500 block of Sparkhayes Drive, Sycamore.

Black had heroin in his system at the time of the crash.

In Illinois, prosecutors do not have to prove impairment; the presence of illegal drugs in a motorist's body automatically holds them criminally responsible.

"Not a day goes by that I do not think about Matthew," said Black, clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, at a court hearing Thursday. "I am not asking for forgiveness but please accept my apology. I am truly and deeply sorry for everything that I have caused."

The vehicle in which Matthew was a passenger was among many stopped that night for another accident westward on Route 64 in Virgil Township.

Black submitted to urine and blood tests after the crash and was charged with aggravated DUI months later.

He pleaded guilty in November, leaving it up to Judge James Hallock to decide his fate.

Black, who is being held at the Kane County jail, faces between three and 14 years in prison.

Defense attorney D.J. Tegeler argued for a sentence of about eight years. He said Black had recently returned to the area after moving to Florida in 2006 in order to cut ties with acquaintances he used to do heroin with. The acquaintances found him via social media and Black shot heroin a day before the crash, Tegeler said.

"He made that fatal error," Tegeler said, adding Black has admitted his addiction and taken responsibility by pleading guilty.

"It was a stupid decision to take the heroin. Heroin makes you think of one thing, and that's heroin," Tegeler added.

Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Joe Cullen pointed to the pain and unimaginable grief Black causes Ranken's family and friends.

Cullen argued the fact the other motorists stopped when seeing the emergency lights but Black didn't was evidence he was still under in the influence.

"The defendant's actions have devastated the lives of so many people," Cullen said. "He chose to drive a car after consuming heroin."

Hallock said he needed time to consider both sides.

"If I was to rule today, I would not give either side the due diligence it deserves," he said.

Ranken's survivors and others hurt in the crash have sued Black for damages. That case is next due in court May 22.

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