A Cook County judge on Thursday sentenced a Barrington Hills teen to 90 days in Cook County jail and three years' probation for the 2013 head-on car crash that killed a 61-year-old Elgin man and seriously injured the man's fiancee.
In sentencing Karsten James Eilertsen, 19, Judge Thomas Fecarotta said he was giving him "a taste" of what awaits him if he violates his probation. That probation includes 12 months of intensive probation, substance abuse counseling, a curfew, random drug tests, 300 hours of community service and zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol for the duration, even after Eilertsen turns 21.
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"Intensive probation for this court is one foot in the penitentiary door," Fecarotta said. "One mistake and you're going to go. Do you understand me?"
"100 percent, your honor," responded Eilertsen, who pleaded guilty last month to aggravated DUI resulting in death and great bodily harm. He was taken into custody after the hearing.
As noted by Fecarotta, the 2013 Barrington High School graduate had several "run-ins" with authorities involving underage drinking -- including an arrest several weeks after the crash but before he was charged. An emotional Eilertsen expressed remorse and took responsibility for the death of Ronald Ziolo, a father of two and co-owner of an automotive shop that he ran with his brother Ken for nearly 40 years.
Ken Ziolo, 58, described his brother as a generous man and a hard worker. A friend to many, Ronald Ziolo loved life, motorcycles, cars and boats, Ken Ziolo said.
"Ron was a storyteller. I never could predict what was going to come out of his mouth, but our customers could never get enough of his lively personality," Ziolo wrote in his victim impact statement. "Ron had a heart of gold. If you needed help, you got it."
Mary Elizabeth Matviuw, 44, Ronald Ziolo's fiancee, tearfully described the emotional torment and physical pain she has endured since the accident, which took place several days before she was to marry her best friend and the love of her life.
"This crash left this world short one amazing man," she said, adding that a part of her died March 3, 2013. The physical reminders remain, said Matviuw, who has had numerous surgeries to repair her shattered right foot and still suffers constant pain.
"I will never walk normal again," said Matviuw, who had participated in 5K and 10K races. "Medical staff told me I will not run again. I will not be able to wear high heels. Dancing is not an option. So many simple things I enjoyed doing with Ronnie have now become nothing but a distant past ... my physical and emotional pains are forever, and Ronnie's life is gone, forever."
Police recovered cannabis and drug paraphernalia from Eilertsen's car, along with a prescription bottle for Adderall, used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Inside the bottle was a half tablet of the sedative Lorazepam, for which Eilertsen did not have a prescription, authorities said. Forensic pharmacologist James O'Donnell testified no evidence of cannabis and only trace amounts of the sedative were found in Eilertsen's blood, meaning the Lorazepam had no effect. O'Donnell said that Eilertsen told medical personnel he had been unable to eat the morning of the crash and felt dizzy and lightheaded. O'Donnell, testifying for the defense, said low blood sugar can cause loss of consciousness and could have caused Eilertsen to crash the car.
"The sentence was fair and appropriate and it sent a message," said defense attorney Ernie Blomquist, who praised Fecarotta for his judgment.
"The family isn't out for revenge," said Ronald Ziolo's son Jason after the hearing. "The family is out for justice."
Now that the case has concluded, they can finally get on with their lives, he said, adding "the best thing we can do to honor my father is to keep him in our thoughts."