Judge lets in­dict­ment stand against driver in Beecher crash

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D - By Ali­cia Fab­bre Ali­cia Fab­bre is a free­lance re­porter.

De­spite mis­lead­ing tes­ti­mony from a sher­iff ’s deputy be­fore a grand jury, a Will County judge Fri­day re­fused to dis­miss an in­dict­ment against an Or­land Park man charged in a crash in Beecher that killed a preg­nant woman and her three young sons.

Sean Woulfe, 27, is charged with 16 counts of reck­less homi­cide in the July 24, 2017, crash at Corn­ing Road and Yates Av­enue. Woulfe, who is free on bond while await­ing trial, was trav­el­ing east when he sped through a stop sign and slammed into a car car­ry­ing Lind­sey Schmidt and her sons.

Schmidt and her 19month-old son, Kaleb, were pro­nounced dead at the scene.

Four-year-old Weston Schmidt died at Comer’s Chil­dren Hospi­tal in Chicago the fol­low­ing evening and 6-year-old Owen died of his in­juries two days later at the same hospi­tal.

A Will County grand jury in­dicted Woulfe on the 16 counts in Septem­ber 2017. Woulfe’s at­tor­ney, Ge­orge Le­nard, ar­gued the in­dict­ment should be dis­missed be­cause the pros­e­cu­tion’s only wit­ness be­fore the grand jury, Will County Sher­iff’s Deputy Henri Wright, pro­vided tes­ti­mony stat­ing that Woulfe had told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was fa­mil­iar with the road at the time of the crash.

Po­lice re­ports pre­sented dur­ing a hear­ing Wed­nes­day in­di­cated the op­po­site and that Woulfe told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was not fa­mil­iar with the road­way or the area. Woulfe had moved to Beecher shortly be­fore the crash. Court records in­di­cate he cur­rently lives in Or­land Park.

De­spite the mis­state­ment by the deputy, pros­e­cu­tors ar­gued the in­dict­ment should stand and pointed to other ev­i­dence pre­sented to the grand jury, in­clud­ing Woulfe’s rate of speed.

Will County Judge Daniel Rippy said that while he had con­cerns about the state­ment made to the grand jury, it did not rise “to the level of a vi­o­la­tion of due pro­cess.”

Rippy noted that af­ter Wright said Woulfe was fa­mil­iar with the road, pros­e­cu­tors asked if Woulfe made those state­ments to him di­rectly. Wright in­di­cated that he did not and that he was re­call­ing what another deputy said.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Woulfe was speed­ing in ex­cess of 20 mph over the 55 mph speed limit, that he dis­obeyed a stop sign and that his reck­less acts caused the death of Schmidt and her three chil­dren, who lived in Beecher. Two of the counts al­lege that he caused the death of Schmidt’s un­born child.

A Will County judge or a jury will de­ter­mine Woulfe’s guilt or in­no­cence on the charges. A trial date has not yet been set but Woulfe is scheduled to ap­pear again in court on Sept. 6.

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