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updated: 7/9/2014 9:13 PM

Barrington Hills teen pleads guilty in fatal DUI case

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A Barrington Hills 19-year-old pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of aggravated DUI in a car crash that claimed the life of a 61-year-old Elgin man and injured a 44-year-old woman last year.

Karsten Eilertsen, a 2013 Barrington High School graduate, submitted his plea in Cook County court Wednesday, with his attorneys and family members.

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About 3 p.m. March 3, 2013, Eilertsen was driving a Chevrolet Suburban north on Route 59 in Barrington Hills when he crossed over the centerlines and sideswiped a Toyota, injuring a 57-year-old female driver, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber.

Eilertsen then crashed head-on into a Dodge driven by Ronald Ziolo of Elgin. Ziolo was killed and his passenger, a 44-year-old woman, suffered injuries to her foot that despite several surgeries may never properly heal, Gerber said.

As Gerber described how paramedics found Ziolo dead at the scene, the 44-year-old woman -- who had been stoically looking forward throughout the hearing -- began sobbing.

Police recovered cannabis and paraphernalia from Eilertsen's car as well as a prescription bottle for Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Inside the bottle was half a tablet of Lorazepam, a sedative that was found in Eilertsen's blood by police investigators from a lab in Indiana. Eilertsen did not have a prescription for Lorazepam, prosecutors said.

Ernie Blomquist, one of Eilertsen's attorneys, said after the hearing that the blood sample was sent to Indiana after the Illinois lab tests were inconclusive. Blomquist said that is an indication of how minor the amount of Lorazepam in his client's system was.

"In this case you don't have a guy hopped up on drugs," Blomquist said. "This is an anti-anxiety drug at a nonintoxicating level."

Blomquist said he sees the sentencing hearing Aug. 6 as an opportunity for the public to get to know his client.

"I know who he really is and what motivates him," Blomquist said. "His story will be compelling when people get to hear it."

At the sentencing hearing the defense is expected to present victim impact statements from people talking about how Ziolo's death changed their lives.

Blomquist said Eilertsen also will speak at the sentencing hearing.

Gerber declined to comment after Wednesday's hearing. The 44-year-old woman also declined to comment.

Eilertsen entered a blind plea, meaning it will be up to the judge to determine the 19-year-old's punishment. The charge relating to Ziolo's death carries a range of three to 13 years in prison. Severely injuring the 44-year-old woman could get him an additional one to 12 years, a maximum fine of $25,000 or both. Both charges include two years of mandatory supervised release.

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