Genoa woman pleads guilty, sentenced to 12 years for 2022 fatal DUI that killed Sycamore couple

Loved ones remember Christopher and Amanda Henning as beloved, kind, loyal, selfless, family-oriented

Amanda B. Henning, 46 and Christopher M. Henning, 49, of Sycamore. Photo provided by their daughter, Courtney Antus.

SYCAMORE – Courtney Antus held in tears Wednesday as she recalled how her father, Christopher Henning, was unable to walk her down the aisle at her wedding, and said she doesn’t forgive the woman responsible.

It was about 6 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022 – eight months before Antus married – that Lake County police officers knocked on her door to tell her something incomprehensible: Her parents were dead.

Christopher Henning, 49, and Amanda Henning, 46, of Sycamore were killed in the early morning hours that day by Chynna Daugherty, then 30, of Genoa. Daugherty was driving drunk when she caused a head-on collision on Peace Road in unincorporated DeKalb County, striking the couple’s vehicle when they were but three minutes away from home.

“This case has plagued my life for the last two years,” Antus said. “I will never be able to describe the amount of emotional turmoil this has put me through. Yes, this act was avoidable. But Ms. Daugherty made the choice to get behind the wheel of a 5,000-pound weapon, effectively taking two lives and destroying countless others in the aftermath.”

Her parents, Antus said, did not deserve their fate.

Her father was pronounced dead by authorities at the scene. Her mother was pronounced dead a short time later at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital in DeKalb.

Daugherty, now 33, pleaded guilty to two charges of aggravated DUI of alcohol causing death – one count for each life. The plea deal was agreed upon by Daugherty, her defense attorney Liam Dixon and lead prosecutor Daniel Regna of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.

She would have gone to trial March 13, court records show.

“This case has plagued my life for the last two years. I will never be able to describe the amount of emotional turmoil this has put me through. Yes, this act was avoidable.”

—  Courtney Antus
Chynna Daugherty, now 33, of Genoa, shown here in this 2022 photo provided by the DeKalb County Jail. Daugherty pleaded guilty Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, to two counts of aggravated DUI causing death, one count each for Christopher Henning and Amanda Henning, of Sycamore, after a Feb. 12, 2022 crash. Daugherty was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

High school sweethearts who’d been married for 30 years, Christopher and Amanda Henning were remembered Wednesday by friends and family as devoted to each other, to their two adult children and to their close-knit circle.

The Hennings, loved ones said, were “what’s mine is yours” people. They’d give you the shirt off their backs, their last dollar. They were described as “salt of the earth.”

The Hennings’ son, Derrick Henning, said he’d just seen his mother before she was killed. The mother and son worked at the Meijer grocery store in Sycamore together.

“We spent a lot of time together, which was one of the happiest times of my life,” he said, comparing that to Feb. 12, 2022, which he called “one of the darkest days of my life.”

During the testimonies, Daugherty looked on, frequently staring down at her lap to weep or wiping her own eyes. Then it was her turn. She stood up, looked at the Hennings’ loved ones and read a prepared statement.

She said she was remorseful and deeply regretted her actions.

“I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil that you have had to endure because of my actions. And to know that I am at the end of that pain makes me sick,” Daugherty said. “I live with this tragedy every day and I will for the rest of my life. And I have prayed and begged God to take some of your pain from you and let me carry it. All that I can say is how unbelievably sorry that I am. ... I would do anything, anything to change any of the events of that evening that led to this tragic accident, and I am so sorry that I cannot.”

After accepting her plea, Circuit Court Judge Philip Montgomery sentenced Daugherty to 12 years in prison. She faced a maximum of 28 years.

She will have to serve 85% of her sentence. She’ll get credit for the 451 days she’s spent so far in DeKalb County Jail. Daugherty also had serious injuries in the crash, police said at the time, and was briefly hospitalized at OSF St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford.

In a packed courtroom, Daugherty was joined by her own loved ones who tearfully waved to her as she was ushered out to begin her sentence.

Hennings remembered

Loved ones and family of the Hennings crowded the other side of the room, offering condolences, hugs and whispered words of comfort to one another. One by one, they testified how Daugherty’s actions robbed them of what they said should have been two vibrant, lengthy lives.

Jody Svoboda, Amanda Henning’s sister, said she hopes Daugherty learned her lesson.

“My sister was my best friend,” Svoboda said. “We shared a room together our whole lives. We did everything together. My life has not been the same since that horrific day. Every day is a nightmare not having Amanda and Chris here.”

Jason Kropp of Rockford was Christopher Henning’s best friend. The Kropps and Hennings raised their children together, he said. Christopher and Jason worked at Waste Management. When their children were younger, the families lived side by side in a duplex.

“Two years, two weeks and two days ago I lost my best friend,” Kropp said. “I’ve kept track of the time, something that Chris and Mandy no longer have. I had the privilege of being his best man, and eight months after this horrific tragedy, I walked Chris’ beautiful daughter down the aisle. I was honored, blessed and so angry that it was me and not him.”

Jennifer Kropp, Jason’s wife, said she’s still haunted by learning of her friends’ deaths. Like Antus, she called the fatal crash avoidable.

“I don’t feel like 12 years is nearly enough,” Jennifer Kropp said. “Chynna will eventually get out and have a chance to live her life. Chris and Amanda will have no life. My dear friends will never know the joy of being grandparents, my dear friends can never grow old together, they’re gone. Just like that, gone.”

About a decade in prison, however, is hard to compare to the loss of two lives, some of the Hennings’ loved ones said.

“Feb. 12, 2022, was the most tragic day of my 77 years of life,” Diana Chartier, Christopher Henning’s mother, said in a statement read by Carrie Kirkpatrick. “Your children are not supposed to pass away before the parent. Chris was my youngest and we were very close. I called Chris my gentle giant.”

When Daugherty, drunk by more than three times the legal blood alcohol content level, prosecutors said, drove her 2017 Dodge Ram into the Henning’s Dodge Journey, she was on probation for a misdemeanor DUI from 2018. Daugherty also was convicted of DUI in Iowa on May 21, 2014, Regna said.

About 12:30 a.m., she was driving drunk north on Peace Road near Freed Road. The Hennings were driving south in the other direction when Daugherty’s vehicle crossed the center line.

Prosecutors said blood test results showed at the time of the 2022 crash Daugherty’s blood alcohol level was 0.275.

Court records showed a pattern of reckless driving habits by Daugherty, prosecutors said.

Montgomery acknowledged frustrations expressed by Hennings’ loved ones about the sentence.

“Nothing I say or can do today can bring back the two lovely people that died as a result of this incident,” Montgomery said. “I do hope that this sentence provides at least a modicum of solace and closure to you.”

Have a Question about this article?