Father sues driver convicted of reckless homicide in Downers North student's death

  • Joseph Kucharski

    Joseph Kucharski

Updated 7/29/2020 1:37 PM

The father of Elizabeth "Beth" Dunlap is suing the man convicted of reckless homicide in the high school junior's death in a crash outside Downers Grove North.

Randall Dunlap of Downers Grove, acting as executor of Beth Dunlap's estate, filed the wrongful-death lawsuit against Joseph Kucharski of Naperville Tuesday in DuPage County Circuit Court.


Kucharski pleaded guilty in January to reckless homicide and was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for striking Beth Dunlap with his car in a crosswalk in front of her school on Feb. 19, 2019.

The six-count suit accuses Kucharski of wrongful death and willful wanton misconduct. It seeks judgment of at least $50,000 on each count, including reimbursement for medical, funeral and burial expenses.

Beth Dunlap suffered severe injuries, including brain damage, and died two days after the crash.

She had been crossing from the east side of Main Street, a four-lane road, to the school, around 11 a.m. Kucharski, driving south, entered the northbound lanes and struck her while driving through a red light.

He was driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He told police he had been smoking crack cocaine for several days prior, and had taken something to help him sleep. An in-squad car recording revealed Kucharski saying to himself that he must have fallen asleep. He also told police that he had dozed off behind the wheel just a few minutes earlier.

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He could have received probation, or up to 14 years in prison.

After the sentencing, Randall Dunlap said the sentence was "wholly inadequate."

Kucharski remains in the DuPage County jail, awaiting transfer to a state prison.

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