McHenry man who caused fatal 1999 crash gets 30 months for second DUI

Man required to serve 50% of his prison sentence, 6 months of probation

Mark Jensen

A McHenry man convicted in 1999 of killing a 32-year-old man while drunken driving in Lake County was sentenced Wednesday to 30 months in prison and six months of probation for driving under the influence in 2021 in Spring Grove.

In January, Mark C. Jensen, 48, entered a blind guilty plea to aggravated driving under the influence with a prior reckless homicide.

Additional charges of aggravated driving under the influence, possession of 30 to 100 grams of marijuana, and possession of unsecured marijuana in a vehicle were dismissed, according to McHenry County court records.

Jensen is accused of driving a vehicle Feb. 12, 2021, while “under the influence of any other drug or combination of drugs to a degree that renders the person incapable of safely driving,” according to the amended indictment.

Initial charges accused him of driving under the influence of alcohol, cocaine and ketamine, according to the indictment.

The charge he was convicted of typically carries a prison term of between two and five years and also is probational. However, due to his past conviction, he was not eligible for probation or conditional discharge, McHenry County Judge James Cowlin said during the sentencing hearing.

Thankfully, no one died that night, but in 1999 he killed a person.

—  Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Miller

Jensen, required to serve 50% of his prison term, will be on six months of probation when released and is required to pay about $2,500 in fines and fees, Cowlin said.

The judge said he is finding that the offense was committed as the result of the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Before learning of Jensen’s sentence, John Thomas, a longtime friend of Jensen’s father, described Jensen as “a remarkable kid” and told the judge, “I don’t think this is prison material. He’s a good kid, your honor.”

Jensen’s attorney, Daniel Hoffman, said since Jensen successfully served his four-year probation following his previous conviction, he has led a law-abiding life, built a successful business and is responsible for supporting his and other’s families.

Hoffman asked Jensen be sentenced to 24 months in prison.

“This is a case appropriate for the minimum sentence,” Hoffman said to the judge.

In asking that Jensen be sentenced to four years in prison, Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Miller said Jensen “obviously” was not convinced to not drive a vehicle after ingesting drugs and alcohol after having previously killed someone while drunken driving and serving four years of probation.

“Maybe four years in prison might make the point this time,” Miller said. “Maybe this will convince him.”

Miller said when Jensen was arrested, people had called police reporting that his vehicle was crossing over the center line of the road and he was “driving erratically.”

“Thankfully, no one died that night, but in 1999 he killed a person,” Miller said.

In the Lake County case, Jensen pleaded guilty to reckless homicide while under the influence of alcohol.

On Sept. 27, 1998, he caused a fatal crash at the intersection of Route 41 and Buckley Road in North Chicago that resulted in the death of a 32-year-old Maywood man, according to Lake County court records.

“I don’t understand why he would [take drugs and drink alcohol] and drive a car,” Miller said.

Before Cowlin announced his sentence, he took a short break to read letters written by friends and family supporting Jensen.

Jensen also spoke to the judge and apologized. He said since his 1999 conviction, he has “tried to be a good person” and always helps people.

“I know I made a mistake, and I’m sorry,” Jensen said. “I’ll try to be a better person.”

In sentencing Jensen, Cowlin said, “I don’t know what caused you to ingest [drugs and alcohol] and get behind the wheel of an automobile, especially based on the past reckless homicide.”

He noted that “by all accounts” Jensen seems like a good friend, family man and member of the community, but said that night could have ended with “horrific casualties.”