Lake County jury finds Mundelein man guilty of first-degree murder in 2012 crash
A Lake County jury has found a Mundelein man guilty of murder for intentionally causing a crash that killed a Round Lake Beach woman in 2012.
Jurors took less than two hours Friday to decide Mark Oelerich, 23, was guilty of killing Araceli Villasenor, 24, when he drove a Cadillac SUV over the centerline on Cedar Lake Road on Nov. 21 and plowed into her Nissan. Villasenor's three children were injured in the crash, two seriously.
The jury also ruled Oelerich was guilty on three counts of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs. Two of those counts were aggravated DUI causing great bodily harm, while the third count was aggravated DUI that resulted in death.
Oelerich is due to be sentenced after a status hearing Nov. 10. He faces up to 60 years in prison.
"The evidence clearly showed the defendant purposefully drove his car into oncoming traffic, killed a mother and injured her children," Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim said. "This was clearly a first-degree murder, and I'm glad the jury agreed. The evidence was overwhelming, thanks to the effort of all the involved investigating agencies."
During closing arguments in front of Lake County Judge James Booras, defense attorney Steven Weinberg said Oelerich was too mentally ill to understand he could potentially kill someone during the crash in Round Lake.
"It's a very difficult case, but as you saw, there is no proof that Mark Oelerich had any idea what he was doing that night," defense attorney Steven Weinberg said. "Maybe all of you would know that driving into the other lane would kill someone, but he didn't know it."
Weinberg and co-counsel Elliot Pinsel argued during the weeklong trial that Oelerich was mentally ill when he crossed the centerline just after 9 p.m. and slammed the Cadillac he took from his parents into the Nissan driven by Villasenor.
After the crash, Oelerich told authorities he intentionally swerved into an oncoming vehicle to test his own mortality.
Weinberg said the defense team has not made a decision about whether to appeal the verdict.
"We're disappointed, but we respect the jury's verdict," he said. "We will prepare our post trial motions, present them to the court, wait until sentencing, then examine whether there are issues for appeal."
Assistant State's Attorney Ben Dillon said during closing arguments the state proved Oelerich should be convicted of murder for intentionally causing the crash.
"If you drive a car, have drugs in your system, and if you intentionally cause a crash, you are guilty," Dillon told the jury. "If you kill someone on purpose, as this defendant did, it is first-degree murder."
Dillon and Assistant State's Attorney Michael Ori said Oelerich was high on synthetic cannabis and a psychedelic drug, which caused his erratic behavior the night of the crash.