Defense: Epileptic seizure to blame for 107 mph crash that killed 16-year-old Hersey student
"Sometimes lives can change in an instant."
Cook County prosecutor Michael Clarke was referring to Alyssa Lendino, a Mount Prospect teen who lost her life in a car crash, when he uttered those words during opening statements in the trial of Adam Grunin, 32, who authorities say caused the July 21, 2018, high-speed collision at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Hintz Road in Wheeling.
But Clarke's words might also apply to Grunin, of Wheeling, who was driving south on Milwaukee Avenue when his attorneys say he suffered an epileptic seizure that caused him to lose control of his vehicle.
Authorities say Grunin struck a different car before speeding into the Lendino family's stopped car at more than 107 mph in a 40 mph zone.
"This was a tragedy," defense attorney Steven Weinberg said during his opening statement as he told jurors his client was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2005, was under a doctor's care and was taking prescribed anti-seizure medication at the time of the crash. No alcohol or drugs were found in his system except those prescribed for him, Weinberg said.
According to his attorney, Grunin underwent an electroencephalogram test on July 5, 2018, that showed a "spike" on his right and left frontal lobes. Those "abnormalities" prompted Grunin's doctor to order a follow-up procedure, but Grunin did not have any driving restrictions, Weinberg said.
The collision occurred before the follow-up procedure took place, said Weinberg, who disagreed with Clarke's statement that Grunin was fleeing the previous collision when he struck the Lendino vehicle, killing the 16-year-old who was about to begin her junior year at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.
"Just like that," Clarke said with a snap of his fingers, "(a family's) whole world is turned upside-down ... all because of the actions of this man."
According to Clarke, Grunin first struck the rear driver's side of a southbound car driven by Angelica Breto, whose two young children were in the back seat.
"I felt an impact," Breto said. "I lost control of the car. The kids were crying and I was afraid."
Moments later, Grunin's car slammed into the Lendinos, whose car was stopped at a red light, Clarke said.
Prosecutors played for jurors video of the crash taken from the windshield camera in an Abt Electronics delivery truck driven by Joseph Kaspar, who was stopped at the same red light in a northbound lane.
"You may hear the defendant had an epileptic seizure so he shouldn't be responsible for Alyssa's death," said Clarke in his opening statement, telling jurors it is up to them to determine "whether that is reasonable or a fabricated excuse to avoid responsibility."
Testimony continues at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Rolling Meadows.