Highland Park huffing trial to continue on Thursday
A Highland Park woman accused of "huffing" computer dust cleaner before driving into and killing a 5-year-old girl in 2012 pleaded guilty Tuesday to reckless homicide, but it didn't stop her trial on other, more serious charges from moving forward.
Testimony in the trial of Carly Rousso, 19, on charges of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance will continue Thursday. About 5 p.m., Lake County Judge James Booras put a halt to the day's proceedings.
Rousso is charged in the Sept. 3, 2012, crash that killed Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento and injured her mother and two brothers.
Authorities have said the crash occurred after Rousso inhaled a chemical compound in computer dust cleaner called difluoroethane while driving her family Lexus through Highland Park and struck another family as they walked along the sidewalk on the 700 block of Central Avenue.
The substance was later found in Rousso's blood, experts testified Tuesday.
The trial against Rousso began when defense attorney Douglas Zeit announced Rousso was pleading guilty to one count of reckless homicide. In addition to the aggravated DUI charge, Rousso was facing two counts of reckless homicide, but the other count was dropped as part of the negotiated plea.
In his opening statement, Zeit told Booras the Illinois constitution does not list difluoroethane as an intoxicating compound. Therefore, Zeit said, Rousso cannot be found guilty of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
"You cannot enlarge the statute to include (the substance)," he said. "It will not be found on any list of compounds in the state as illegal."
During his opening statement, Assistant State's Attorney Michael Ori said Rousso began a "series of bad decisions" the morning she drove to a Deerfield Walgreens and purchased two cans of the computer dust cleaner.
Ori said Rousso took her first hit off the dust cleaner in the parking lot of the Walgreens, then began driving to her Highland Park home.
Rousso swerved the Lexus she was driving from the eastbound lanes of Central Avenue across the westbound lanes, jumped the curb, drove onto the sidewalk and slammed into another Highland Park family, Ori said.
A crash scene surveillance video played in court shows the vehicle hit a girl in the family, backed up and hit her again, then stopped and move forward where it hit the girl a third time, Ori said. A witness to the crash helped stop the vehicle, he said.
The car finally came to a rest against a brick wall, the video showed.
"For $22, she got a relatively short high," Ori said. "And, because of it, Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento isn't with us anymore."
Police officers who testified in court said Rousso was distraught and crying after she was interviewed, but also admitted to huffing the can of computer dust cleaner. Many of the officers in court testified Rousso was sluggish, dozing off and seemed intoxicated while sitting on the ground immediately after the crash.
Aggravated DUI resulting in death could put Rousso behind bars for up to 14 years, while reckless homicide carries a maximum of 5 years in prison. She will be sentenced on the reckless homicide charge at a later date.