Palatine man convicted of killing teen in 2003 crash arrested in another DUI

A Palatine man who served a 7½-year prison sentence for killing a 17-year-old girl in a 2003 drunken driving crash was arrested again over the weekend, after police say he got behind the wheel after drinking and drove into two parked cars.

James T. Stitt, 34, of the 0-100 block of South Hale Street, is charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with the crash late Saturday night on the north side of the village.

Stitt went to prison in 2004 after pleading guilty to a reckless homicide charge stemming from the death of Caitlin Weese, a 17-year-old student at Larkin High School in Elgin.

Authorities at the time said Stitt, then a Lake Zurich resident, had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal threshold and marijuana in his system on May 22, 2003, when his vehicle veered into oncoming traffic on Route 72 near Gilberts. His car collided head-on with one driven by Caitlin, who died two days later.

Caitlin, authorities said, had been driving home to Wonder Lake after buying an outfit to wear at her high school graduation, which would have been eight days later. A roadside marker reading "Please don't drink and drive" and memorializing Caitlin stands near the crash site.

Stitt was sentenced to 7½ years in prison and paroled in 2009 after serving the minimum 85 percent of his sentence the law requires.

"I wish I knew what the answer was," Joel Mains, Caitlin's stepfather, said Monday after learning of Stitt's arrest from Palatine police. "For some people stiffer penalties might work, and for others, I'm afraid nothing might work."

Mains said he and Caitlin's sister, stepsister and stepbrother were talking about Stitt's newest DUI charge all day. They plan to follow his case through the court system and attend his next court hearing.

"I obviously am disappointed and the family is disappointed," Mains said. "This stirs up a whole new set of feelings that had been kind of under the surface for quite some time. I feel bad for a lot of people. I don't want to try and be holier than thou, because I'm certainly not, but this is bad for his family just like it's bad for our family.

"Unfortunately, it kind of amplifies the selfish nature of DUI offenses."

Palatine police said officers were called at 11:54 p.m. Saturday to a report of a three-vehicle crash in a parking lot on the 700 Block of Independence Drive. A witness reported that a black 2003 Lincoln LS struck two parked cars and then parked nearby, with the driver remaining inside, police said.

Officers found the driver, later identified as Stitt, unconscious and slumped over the steering wheel of his vehicle, according to police. Upon speaking with the driver, officers detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth, as well as slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, police reported.

Stitt appeared in Cook County court on the new charge Monday, when Judge Joseph Cataldo set his bail at $75,000, meaning he must post $7,500 to go free while the case is pending. He remained in county custody as of late Monday, records indicate.

If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, county prosecutors said.

Stitt's background includes a 1997 DUI conviction for which he received supervision, prosecutors said. He also has a 2001 reckless driving conviction from Lake County.

He next appears in court on Dec. 15.

• Daily Herald staff writer Barbara Vitello contributed to this report.

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