Geneva woman who caused fatal crash sentenced to probation, community service

A Geneva woman who was high on marijuana and Xanax when she caused a 2017 downstate crash that killed her passenger, a Geneva High School graduate, was sentenced Wednesday to four years of probation and community service.

Jennifer L. Findahl, 21, of the 3100 block of Husking Peg Lane, faced three to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to felony aggravated DUI in a Sept. 16, 2017, crash in Livingston County that killed Eweart "Daine" Rice-Picasso of St. Charles.

Findahl was driving the wrong way on an Interstate 55 exit ramp when she collided with a semitrailer truck, killing Rice-Picasso, 18, who had graduated from Geneva High School that same year.

According to a crash report, Findahl told authorities the truck was headed the wrong way; the trucker and an independent witness said she was in the wrong.

Findahl initially received just a traffic ticket, but prosecutors obtained toxicology tests and charged her with aggravated DUI, reckless homicide and other offenses in early 2018.

Findahl entered a "blind" or "cold" plea in December 2019 in which a defendant admits guilt without agreeing to a sentence with prosecutors and instead leaves it up to a judge.

On Wednesday, Livingston County State's Attorney Randy Yedinak argued for a seven-year prison term. Findahl's attorney, James Casson, argued for probation.

Judge Jennifer Bauknecht ruled that "extraordinary mitigating circumstances" existed and gave Findahl four years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

"We obviously disagree with the sentence but respect the court's decision," Yedinak wrote in an email.

Casson declined to comment Wednesday when reached by phone. If Findhal violates her probation, she could be resentenced to up to 14 years in prison.

Rice-Picasso's family has sued Findahl for damages, as has another passenger in the vehicle who was injured. Those cases have been consolidated into one that is next due in Kane County court on Sept. 17

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