Naperville man pleads not guilty to charges in Downers Grove North student's death

  • Joseph Kucharski pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide in the Feb. 19 death of 17-year-old Beth Dunlap.

    Joseph Kucharski pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide in the Feb. 19 death of 17-year-old Beth Dunlap. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Beth Dunlap played on Downers Grove North's volleyball team, including last year during Class 4A girls state semifinals at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.

      Beth Dunlap played on Downers Grove North's volleyball team, including last year during Class 4A girls state semifinals at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

  • Joseph Kucharski's attorney, Jay Fuller, entered pleas of not guilty Friday in DuPage to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide in the death of 17-year-old Beth Dunlap.

    Joseph Kucharski's attorney, Jay Fuller, entered pleas of not guilty Friday in DuPage to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide in the death of 17-year-old Beth Dunlap. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Joseph Kucharski at his March 15 arraignment.

    Joseph Kucharski at his March 15 arraignment. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Judge Liam Brennan hears a plea from Joseph Kucharski, right, with his lawyer Jay Fuller, center, and prosecutor Kristin Johnston, second from right, at the DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton on Friday.

    Judge Liam Brennan hears a plea from Joseph Kucharski, right, with his lawyer Jay Fuller, center, and prosecutor Kristin Johnston, second from right, at the DuPage County courthouse in Wheaton on Friday. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Joseph Kucharski, accused of being under the influence of drugs when his car struck and killed a 17-year-old Downers Grove North junior, pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide.

    Joseph Kucharski, accused of being under the influence of drugs when his car struck and killed a 17-year-old Downers Grove North junior, pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts of aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/16/2019 9:26 AM

Joseph Kucharski stood silent in orange jail garb Friday morning as his attorney, Jay Fuller, entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf in the crash that killed Downers Grove North junior Beth Dunlap.

Kucharski, 51, of Naperville, has been indicted on nine counts of felony aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide. If convicted, he faces three to 14 years in prison.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

DuPage County prosecutors say Kucharski was asleep at the wheel and coming down from a four-day cocaine bender at 10:55 a.m. Feb. 19 when he drove through the intersection of Main and Grant streets, striking and fatally injuring Beth.

Details of the crash and the days leading up to it were initially disclosed at a Feb. 26 hearing at which DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan reduced Kucharski's bail from $5 million, on his original warrant, to $750,000. Despite the reduction, Kucharski remained in custody Friday.

Prosecutors allege Xanax and a prescription medication used to help opiate abusers wean themselves were found in his car. A search of the hotel room where Kucharski was staying found two crack pipes, cocaine and an open bottle of vodka.

On Feb. 19, authorities said Kucharski drove south on Main Street after running a red light.

Beth, who had late arrival privileges, and a teacher were preparing to cross to enter school when Kucharski's vehicle struck Beth, authorities said. She died days later and her organs were donated.

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An officer noticed what appeared to be some impairment. Kucharski failed a field sobriety test and his blood alcohol content was determined to be .031, authorities said.

Kucharski has a criminal history dating to 1985 that includes two DUI arrests, a conviction for possessing cannabis in Georgia and a battery conviction.

Should Kucharski be released on bail, Brennan prohibited him from purchasing, renting or driving any vehicle and ordered him to wear a drug-detecting patch if not in inpatient treatment and an alcohol-monitoring device on his ankle. He is also prohibited from contacting the Dunlap family.

Kucharski is next due in court on April 29.

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