News - Sauk Valley

Investigator: Driver’s BAC triple the legal limit in fatal crash

Douglas M. Strehlow

MORRISON – A Milledgeville man who crashed nearly head-on into a car, resulting in the death of the driver 3 days later, had a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit – or more – an investigator testified Monday.

Douglas M. Strehlow, 44, was southbound on state Route 40 just north of Fulfs Road around 2:40 a.m. Aug. 19 when his Chevy Silverado pickup crossed the center line and collided with a northbound Chevy Cavalier driven by Summer D. Harmon, 40.

Harmon died Aug. 22 in a Wisconsin hospital of blunt force trauma as a result.

“It was my fault. It was all my fault,” a mumbling, wobbly Strehlow told Whiteside County Deputy Nick Woodhurst, the first officer on the scene.

That’s according to Whiteside County Sheriff’s traffic reconstructionist Sgt. Kris Schmidt, who testified Monday afternoon at Strehlow’s preliminary hearing, at which testimony is presented to determine whether there is probable cause to charge a person with a crime.

Rock Island County-based Associate Judge Gregory G. Chickris, who was filling in for Judge William S. McNeal, ruled that there was.

Strehlow was arrested June 2 and charged with two counts of aggravated DUI involving a death, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison. He is in Whiteside County Jail on $500,000 bond, and has a pretrial conference July 24. He is represented by Whiteside County Public Defender James Heuerman.

According to Schmidt, who analyzed the black boxes of both vehicles as well as evidence at the scene:

Strehlow was southbound, doing about 45 mph, when his pickup drifted across the center line near the old radio station and hit Harmon’s northbound car not quite head-on. About a second and a half before impact, he hit the brakes, but not hard.

He was wearing a seat belt, and his airbag deployed.

Harmon, who delivered newspapers for Sauk Valley Media, among others, was on her motor route, delivering SV Weekend editions. Five seconds before impact, she was traveling at 64 mph; she braked hard, and 2 seconds later was down to 43 mph.

She was not wearing a seat belt.

The impact, Schmidt said, was “extensive.”

Strehlow consented to a blood draw at the scene, and his blood also was drawn at CGH Medical Center. The Illinois State Police lab put the first BAC at .229; the legal limit is .08. The second blood draw result was .270.

Strehlow, who was unsteady on his feet, told Woodhurst that he was both coming from and going to Milledgeville.

He told Schmidt, who was called to the scene, that he ran some errands that day, had a beer at Warner’s MVP Lounge in Sterling, another at Long Shot, a former Rock Falls bar, then attended the annual Milledgeville Village Jamboree, where he ate dinner around 7:30 p.m., then had five Miller Lites.

Morphine and other medication, he said, had him “feeling loopy,” and he had no recollection of the crash.

According to a wrongful death suit filed by Harmon’s father, Ernest F. Anderson of Rock Falls, executor of her estate, Strehlow also was drinking late the night of the 18th and early the morning of the 19th at two Milledgeville bars.

The suit, filed June 1, names Strehlow, Jeff L. Lancaster, owner of The Other Bar, 306 N. Main Ave., Curt D. Eubanks, owner of The Mill Wheel Tavern, 337 N. Main Ave., and The Mill Wheel Tavern LLC. It seeks a jury trial and damages in excess of $50,000.

The bar owners and Eubanks’ limited liability company are being sued under Illinois’ Dram Shop Act, which gives people the right to sue for damages anyone who sells or gives alcohol to a person, causing or contributing to their drunkenness, if that person then injures or kills someone.

A case management conference is set for Oct. 1.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.