West Chicago man convicted in fiery fatal DUI crash
A DuPage County judge said he believes the science and math that crash reconstruction experts relied on to show Omar Montoya Medina was driving his brother-in-law's Volkswagen Passat 100 mph or faster when he broadsided a car and killed the Warrenville man driving it.
Judge Brian Telander concluded the bench trial on Thursday by finding Medina, 31, guilty of two counts each of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI causing death. Medina faces three to 14 years in prison when he is sentenced March 23.
Based on a series of algorithms and formulas, crash reconstruction experts testified Medina's vehicle was traveling up to 110 mph when he slammed into a white Honda Accord driven by Antonio Alvarez about 11 p.m. Dec. 5, 2014, at Route 59 and Gary's Mill Road in West Chicago.
"The courts are relying more and more on this type of scientific evidence," Telander said before ruling. "That's the era we're in now."
Alvarez, 37, of Warrenville, was attempting to turn left onto Route 59 from westbound Gary's Mill. Experts said the same formulas show Alvarez was traveling about 12 mph when he was struck.
Assistant State's Attorney Demetri Demopoulos said Medina's blood-alcohol concentration was .161 one hour after he "piloted a rocket at 100 mph down Route 59."
According to the medical examiner's report, Alvarez suffered fractures to his skull, ribs and pelvis, in addition to lacerations on his heart, lungs, spleen and kidneys.
West Chicago police officers testified earlier in the trial, which began in December, that Alvarez's car was engulfed in flames when they arrived at the scene.
Officers found Medina and his passenger with burns and other injuries. Alvarez was found dead inside his car, his remains burned so badly he was identified using a DNA sample from his brother.
"The force of this crash nearly ripped a 3,000-pound car into two pieces," Demopolous said during closing arguments. "And it caused a massive explosion and fireball that could be seen from miles away."
DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said Alvarez's death was avoidable.
"Antonio Alvarez, a married father of two, died from injuries he sustained at the hands of a man who had no business behind the wheel of a car," Berlin said in a written statement. "Because of (Medina's) incredibly irresponsible behavior, Antonio's widow will never get the chance to grow old with her husband and his two children will grow up without their father."
Defense attorney Rich Kayne called the algorithms and formulas that ultimately convicted his client "junk science" and "voodoo."
He said prosecutors ignored eyewitness testimony and "took certain assumptions and made them fit into their model."
"This accident was 100 percent the fault of the Honda," Kayne said in his closing argument. "My client is guilty of the DUI and he made a bad decision, but you can't use that to speculate that he's guilty of a more serious offense."
Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Johnston said there were no eyewitnesses besides Medina.
"It's not voodoo. And it's better than eyewitnesses," she said. "It's science."
Medina has been held on $500,000 bail since his arrest when he was released from the hospital.