Prosecutors ask judge to deny release to DeKalb man charged in deputy’s death

Nathan P. Sweeney charged with DUI, reckless homicide, accused of causing crash that killed Christina Musil, appears in first court hearing

Nathan P. Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb, was arrested and charged Wednesday, April 3, 2024, with DUI and reckless homicide in the March 28, 2024, crash that killed DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy Christina Musil, 35, a military veteran and mother of three. (Inset photo provided by Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle.)

DeKALB – Sheriff’s deputies and family packed a courtroom in Sycamore on Friday to witness the first court appearance of the man accused of causing the car crash that killed their loved one and colleague, Deputy Christina Musil.

It was another somber affair as bailiffs handed out Kleenex boxes and deputies filed in standing-room-only, one day after they were joined by hundreds of other law enforcement from across the region to lay Musil to rest. The hearing closed out a full week since Musil, 35, a mother of three, a five-year member of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and a veteran who served in Afghanistan, was killed in a car crash.

Nathan P. Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb allegedly drove under the influence of drugs while behind the wheel of a commercial Kenworth truck about 10:30 p.m. March 28, according to court records.

Sweeney’s truck allegedly rear-ended Musil’s squad car while she was on duty parked on the shoulder about three-quarters of a mile south of the intersection of Perry Road and Route 23 in Waterman, authorities have said. Musil died from her injuries in the early morning hours March 29 at a nearby hospital.

A photo of fallen DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil is displayed Thursday, April 4, 2024, during her visitation and funeral in the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University. Musil, 35, was killed March 28 while on duty after a truck rear-ended her police vehicle in Waterman.

No ruling was made Friday about whether Sweeney will be released from Ogle County Jail while he awaits his court proceedings. Instead, Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick set the matter over to a 1 p.m. hearing Monday.

Sweeney is charged with three counts of DUI of drugs causing death and one count of reckless homicide, all Class 2 felonies. If convicted, he could face between three and 14 years in prison.

“It is a mandatory prison sentence unless the court determines at a sentencing hearing that extraordinary circumstances exist and require probation,” Buick said, laying out what would happen if Sweeney was found guilty.

Sweeney appeared virtually from where he’s been held in the Ogle County Jail in Oregon since his Wednesday night arrest by Illinois State Police.

Appearing visibly emotional, Sweeney could be seen wiping his eyes and nose with a tissue multiple times. He’ll remain in police custody in Ogle County without release until at least Monday, when a DeKalb County judge is expected to hear prosecutors’ request that the man be denied release.

“I understand perfectly, your honor,” Sweeney said to Buick. He was represented by Geneva-based defense attorney John Kopp.

Members of law enforcement file out after going by the casket of fallen colleague DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil Thursday, April 4, 2024, during her visitation and funeral in the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University. Musil, 35, was killed March 28 while on duty after a truck rear-ended her police vehicle in Waterman.

Although nothing had been filed in DeKalb County court as of Friday afternoon, Kopp said to Buick that he intends to file a request that “the entire DeKalb County judiciary” recuse itself from his client’s case.

Prosecutor Scott Schwertley of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to hold the hearing over to Monday.

During an investigation conducted by the ISP and the DeKalb County Coroner’s Office at the request of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, police learned that Sweeney allegedly was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash, according to the ISP.

“The results of the Illinois State Police crash investigation confirm that this terrible tragedy could have and should have been avoided,” DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday night.

Musil’s family earlier this week called the crash that took Musil away from them an “unnecessary, heartbreaking, painful, deplorable, tragic loss of our lives,” that had turned their “world upside down,” in a statement.

Sullivan previously told Shaw Local News Network that Sweeney is being held at the Ogle County Jail because the investigation is being conducted separately from the sheriff’s office since Musil was a deputy there. DeKalb County sheriff’s corrections deputies operate the DeKalb County Jail. Musil served as a corrections deputy for three years before she worked in the patrol division.

ISP officers initially issued Sweeney citations for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, improper lane usage and operating an uninsured motor vehicle, according to an ISP news release.

A public GoFundMe campaign to benefit Musil’s children has raised $262,353 from 1,300 donations as of 3:52 p.m. Friday.

Friend reflects on Musil as mom, deputy

Shannon Ballard, a correctional officer for Bureau County, said she attended Corrections Academy at the same time as Musil, and developed a yearslong friendship.

“She was always kind and helped whenever she was able to, cheering everyone on to do their best. We would see each other occasionally after and would catch up about our lives,” Ballard said.

Shannon Ballard’s mom, Suzanne Ballard, a retired DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant in the Corrections division, was still working when Musil joined the force in 2019. Ballard’s mother was Musil’s sergeant, she said.

Ballard said Musil would talk often about her children, and even helped her out once with her own.

“One of the kindest acts she ever did for me was she had given me a toddler bed that was actually for my dog when he had surgery and wouldn’t be able to walk around,” Ballard said. “I still have the bed and it’s still his favorite.”

That happened about the same time Musil learned she would be given the opportunity to potentially shift her career from the corrections division to going on patrol as a deputy. Ballard said Musil had told her how excited she was to go to school and become a road deputy.

“If you ever want to find someone to be inspired by, it would 100% be her,” Ballard said. “She was an amazing mother who her children can always be proud of, a great friend you could always count on, and a deputy our community was blessed to have.”

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