18-year sentence for Round Lake Beach man in fatal DUI crash
A Round Lake Beach man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to being so drunk that he blacked out prior to killing a Lake Geneva man with his Ford Explorer will spend 18 years in prison.
Vicente Torres-Vasquez, 48, said he deeply regretted being intoxicated when he pulled his SUV into traffic on July 24, 2011, and struck 55-year-old Gregory Homola while he rode a motorcycle.
Lake County prosecutors painted Torres-Vasquez as a habitual felon who became so dizzy after drinking more than 15 beers and a bottle of tequila in the front seat of his vehicle that he decided he had to drive home.
"The term that he was literally blind drunk never applied more than it does in this case," Lake County Assistant States Attorney Pat Fix said during Tuesday's sentencing hearing. "And, his first thought at the scene was not of helping anyone ... the first words out of his mouth when a police officer arrived was, 'My life is over.'"
Fix said Torres-Vasquez, formerly of the 1300 block of Belvidere Road, pleaded guilty to a single count of aggravated driving under the influence that resulted in death and two counts of aggravated DUI that resulted in great bodily harm.
He was initially charged with reckless homicide and multiple counts of aggravated DUI.
According to police, Torres-Vasquez pulled blindly out of a parking lot on Route 176 in Wauconda and into the path of Homola's eastbound motorcycle. He then careened into a car in the westbound lanes, injuring two women, one of whom was pregnant.
The pregnant woman and her child recovered from the accident, Fix said, but the second victim still suffers from speech issues and remains in therapy.
Tests after the crash showed Torres-Vasquez had a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 percent, more than three times the legal limit.
Normally sentences handed down to felons are served concurrently. Because of the nature of the crime, Shanes was allowed to force Torres-Vasquez to serve the sentences consecutively.
Technically, the verdict handed down has Torres-Vasquez serving 11 years for killing Homola, then serving seven years for injuring the two women. Once he completes his sentence, he will be turned over to INS. Shanes added Torres-Vasquez is not allowed be rewarded for good time until he serves at least 85 percent of the sentence, and he will need to serve two years of probation after he completes his sentence.
Torres-Vasquez told Shanes through an interpreter in court that he "deeply regrets" his actions and that he "really regrets the loss for the family."
Fix said the crash that killed Homola was Torres-Vasquez's fourth DUI, yet he managed to slip through the system and remain in the country.
Fix said Torres-Vasquez received two DUIs in 2007 and one in 2008. After the third DUI, Torres-Vasquez was incarcerated and scheduled to be deported, Fix said, but INS officials allowed him to post bail before his deportation hearing.
Fix said Torres-Vasquez never showed up to the deportation hearing.
"His actions over a lifetime in our country shows his blatant disregard for our laws," she said. "He has taken advantage of a system that has allowed him to be in this country."
Torres-Vasquez will receive a little more than one year's credit for time already served in jail.
Family members in court read victim impact statements and urged Shanes to impose the toughest sentence possible.
Niece Jackie (Homola) Billingham of McHenry said Torres-Vasquez ignored laws that were designed to keep people safe from motorists who routinely drive under the influence of alcohol.
"Take no pity on the defendant as he has taken no pity on the people of this country," she said. "We didn't deserve to lose (Gregory Homola.)"