Truck driver's statements can be used in trial on I-88 crash

Statements a Hanover Park truck driver gave police just hours after a January crash along I-88 in which he is accused of killing Wheeling tollway worker Vincent Petrella and seriously injuring a state trooper can be used against him should his case proceed to trial.

DuPage County Judge Robert Kleeman ruled Monday afternoon that Renato Velasquez, 46, was read his Miranda rights on several occasions, understood them and waived them by continuing to talk to investigators for several hours after the crash.

Velazquez's attorney, Steven Goldman, filed a motion to suppress all statements Velasquez gave investigators and argued his client did not "intelligently and knowingly" waive his rights to remain silent and not be questioned without an attorney present.

Assistant State's Attorney Joe Ruggiero, who is chief of the office's criminal division, played five video clips in court Monday afternoon of various police interviews of Velasquez taken between 12:20 a.m. and 9 a.m. Jan. 28.

The first two clips were shot at Velasquez's bedside at Aurora's Mercy Center Hospital and the rest at a state police substation in Downers Grove where Velasquez was being detained.

Goldman argued investigators never checked with the hospital staff or Velasquez about whether he was under the influence of pain medication or other drugs that may have influenced his decision to talk.

"(Velasquez) was given his Miranda not once but a couple of times on video and he gave several statements that lasted several hours," Ruggiero argued. "The defendant cooperated from the very beginning all the way through."

About 9:30 p.m. Jan. 27, Illinois State Police Trooper Doug Balder and Petrella were helping with a disabled semitrailer truck on eastbound I-88 near Eola Road in Aurora when their vehicles were struck by a truck driven by Velasquez.

When the crash occurred, both Petrella and Balder were sitting inside their parked vehicles, which had flashing emergency lights.

Velasquez faces multiple felony charges, including operating a commercial motor vehicle while fatigued or impaired and making a false report of record and duty status.

In addition, he's charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failure to yield to stationary emergency vehicles.

Prosecutors say Velasquez had slept for only 3½ hours during a 37½-hour shift in which he traveled through Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa before returning to the Chicago area. Velasquez, who is free on $150,000 bail, is next due in court Nov. 20 when a trial date is likely too be set.

Balder's wife, Kimberli, flanked by several troopers, declined to comment on her husband's condition after Monday's hearing.

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