Suspect in fatal Downers Grove crash ordered back to jail

  • Joseph Kucharski

    Joseph Kucharski

 
 
Updated 6/3/2019 3:48 PM

A Naperville man charged with nine counts of felony aggravated DUI and two counts of reckless homicide after authorities said he struck and killed a Downers Grove North High School student earlier this year was ordered back to jail Monday after a judge ruled he committed a "serious violation" of his bail.

DuPage County Judge Liam Brennan increased Joseph Kucharski's bail from the previously set $750,000, 10 percent of which Kucharski posted to be released, to $1 million. He now must post 10 percent of the difference, or an additional $25,000, to be released again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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 junior Beth Dunlap, who had late arrival privileges and was on her way to school with a teacher.

Kucharski faces three to 14 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

Prosecutors alleged Kucharski violated the no-contact order of his bail on May 16, less than 24 hours after he posted bail and was released from jail, when a friend from church texted Beth Dunlap's mother.

Beth's father, Randy Dunlap, contacted prosecutors on May 16 after his wife received a series of text messages from an unknown number, purporting to be a friend of Kucharski.

Prosecutors on Monday played audio portions of a May 21 Downers Grove police interview with Naperville resident Deborah Weber, in which she said Kucharski called her "out of the blue" from his cousin's cellphone "crying and telling her how grief-stricken he is" and that he "would like to apologize to (Dunlap's) family but is court-ordered not to contact them."

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Weber said she offered to use an online search engine to find a contact number for the family, to which she said Kucharski responded "That would be awesome" and thanked her for "being in his corner."

Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Johnson said within hours of that call, Dunlap's mother received text messages saying Kucharski was "distraught with grief, like you" and that "he wishes he could turn back the hands of time, like you" and that he "would truly like to express his condolences to you and your husband."

Intake probation officer Theresa Marotta also testified Monday that she spent more than an hour with Kucharski on the afternoon of May 15, specifically advising him of his bail conditions, including the no-contact order, "even if it's well-meaning."

She said she told him that includes not contacting any family on Twitter or social media, not donating to any fundraising the family may be doing, and not contacting any extended family. She said she also told him he could not have any family or friends reaching out to the Dunlaps on his behalf.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"When I was finished, I asked him if he had any questions and he said no," Marotta said.

Brennan said he believes Marotta was "100 percent clear" in her instructions.

Prosecutors say investigators found two Xanax bars, a Benadryl and a prescription medication used to help opiate abusers wean themselves in a contact lens case in Kucharski's car after the crash. A search of the hotel room where he was staying found two crack pipes, multiple rocks of crack cocaine and a half-empty bottle of vodka, reports said.

Authorities said Kucharski was driving south on Main Street after running a red light when the crash occurred.

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.

His next court date is scheduled for July 9.

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