Highland Park woman sentenced to 5 years for huffing crash that killed child

  • Tomas Santos, left, talks to reporters about Carly Rousso's prison sentence Wednesday. Rousso struck and killed his daughter, Jaclyn, in 2012.

      Tomas Santos, left, talks to reporters about Carly Rousso's prison sentence Wednesday. Rousso struck and killed his daughter, Jaclyn, in 2012. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

  • Carly Rousso, shown walking into the Lake County Courthouse in May, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for driving over and killing a 5-year-old Highland Park girl after inhaling computer dust cleaner to get high.

      Carly Rousso, shown walking into the Lake County Courthouse in May, was sentenced today to 5 years in prison for driving over and killing a 5-year-old Highland Park girl after inhaling computer dust cleaner to get high. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Defense attorney Jed Stone talks to reporters after the sentencing of his client, Carly Rousso.

      Defense attorney Jed Stone talks to reporters after the sentencing of his client, Carly Rousso. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/18/2014 5:37 AM

A Highland Park woman convicted of running over and killing a 5-year-old girl in 2012 was sentenced Wednesday to 5 years in prison.

Carly Rousso, 20, could go free in less than 3 years under state prison guidelines, however. That's far less than the 14 years she could have received from Lake County circuit court Judge James Booras.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Booras gave Rousso a 5-year sentence for reckless homicide and a 4-year term for aggravated driving under the influence in the Sept. 3, 2012, car crash.

The sentences will be served concurrently, so with likely credits while behind bars, Rousso could serve about 40 months in prison.

The parents of the girl Rousso killed, Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, were angered by the sentence. With the help of an interpreter, Tomas Santos told reporters at the Waukegan courthouse he felt Rousso deserved more time in prison.

"He feels really sad and angry," the interpreter said. "(Jaclyn's) life was taken away from them in a horrible way."

Rousso was convicted in May of the DUI charge. She had earlier pleaded guilty to reckless homicide.

Rousso told authorities she inhaled chemicals from a can of computer dust remover just before hitting Jaclyn and three members of Jaclyn's family in Highland Park.

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On Wednesday, Rousso attorney Jed Stone asked Booras to sentence his client to probation. He argued Rousso was an addict who used drugs to deal with childhood trauma, including a rape and being mauled by a dog when she was 14.

Those circumstances were "adversities," Booras said, but they weren't significant enough to erase Rousso's deadly actions.

"The defendant is still alive. It's the victim that is not here today," Booras said.

Assistant State's Attorney Mike Ori had asked for an 8-year prison sentence. Afterward, Ori told reporters he respects the judge's decision. He wouldn't elaborate.

Stone was appreciative of Booras' leniency when he spoke to the media.

"Although we didn't get everything we asked for today, we certainly got a judge who listened and understood," Stone said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wednesday's daylong hearing included emotional statements from Jaclyn's parents, which were read aloud by Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Stella Veytsel.

In his statement, Tomas Santos described the day of the fatal accident as "the most painful day of my life as a father."

He wrote that he and his wife, Modesta Sacramento, haven't yet told Jaclyn's two brothers that their sister is dead. They ask where Jaclyn is, he wrote, "but I cannot tell them what happened."

In her statement, Modesta Sacramento said she has told her surviving children that Jaclyn is in Mexico. That is where the 5-year-old was buried.

"It has left a painful void in my life," she wrote.

Rousso's father, David, two therapists and a pastor testified on Rousso's behalf.

During cross-examination by Ori, one of those therapists, Heather Keith, testified Rousso used inhalants to get high again in June 2013. Keith also acknowledged Rousso had abused alcohol while awaiting trial.

That drug and alcohol abuse was kept from prosecutors, Ori said.

Rousso made a brief statement in court before Booras made his decision.

"I just want to say that I'm so sorry for what happened," she said. "I wish more than anything it could've been me instead of Jaclyn."

Rousso's bail was revoked Wednesday and she was promptly taken into custody. She will be incarcerated at the Lake County jail until Illinois Department of Corrections officials decide where she will serve her prison time.

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