Police: Geneva teen in fatal downstate crash contradicted by witness
A Geneva teen accused of causing a head-on collision downstate that killed her passenger, a 2017 Geneva High School graduate, initially told police the truck she hit was going the wrong way but was contradicted by an independent witness, according to a crash report.
Jennifer Findahl, 19, is charged with felony aggravated driving under the influence of drugs and reckless homicide in a September 2017 crash on Interstate 55 near Pontiac that killed her passenger, Eweart "Daine" Rice-Picasso, a 2017 Geneva High School graduate and St. Charles resident.
Findahl was charged in late January by the Livingston County state's attorney's office after chemical tests taken after the crash came back from the lab; she made her initial court appearance Thursday morning.
She is accused of being under the influence of anti-anxiety pills that are considered a controlled substance, and using marijuana within two hours of the crash, according to court records.
A crash report from the Illinois State Police said authorities responded to a head-on collision between a Peterbuilt semitrailer truck and a Cadillac Escalade driven by Findahl at 3:50 a.m. Sept. 16, 2017.
Rice-Picasso was flown to St. Francis Hospital in Peoria and died of his injuries. Findahl and two other passengers were taken to a Pontiac hospital for minor injuries.
"Prior to transport to the hospital, driver of Unit 1 (Findahl) stated Unit 2 was driving in the wrong lane," read part of the state police narrative on the crash report.
The truck driver and a witness who was not in either vehicle told police Findahl's vehicle was in the wrong lane, the crash report said. The truck driver also told police he saw the Escalade headed toward him and he tried to slow down and move to the right shoulder of the road. When he did that, the Escalade also moved toward the same shoulder and "seemed to be mirroring his actions."
Findahl attorney James Casson confirmed his client made her initial court appearance in Livingston County, then declined further comment.
Findahl's parents' insurance company recently filed litigation in Kane County arguing it was not liable for Findahl's actions because the Escalade was not an insured vehicle under the policy.
Findahl is next due in court June 5. If convicted of the most severe charge, she faces up to 14 years in prison.