Drunken driver gets 8 years in fatal 2017 collision in rural Sterling

Doug Strehlow takes the stand during his sentencing hearing Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 in Whiteside County court.

MORRISON – The man who drove drunk and killed a Sterling woman more than six years ago was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison.

Douglas M. Strehlow, 49, then of Milledgeville but now of Sterling, pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to aggravated driving under the influence resulting in the death of Summer D. Harmon, 40, of Sterling; a second count was dismissed.

He must serve at least 85% of his sentence, or about six years and 10 months.

Strehlow was arrested June 2, 2018, and was freed on bond Sept. 4, 2020. He was given credit for two years and 122 days served, so he will be eligible for parole in about four and a half years.

Strehlow was traveling south on Route 40 in rural Sterling, just north of Fulfs Road, about 2:40 a.m. Aug. 19, 2017. His blood-alcohol concentration was almost three times the legal limit when his pickup hit Harmon’s car almost head-on.

She died three days later.

Strehlow apologized to Harmon’s family Monday and was taken into custody after the hearing, where Judge Trish Senneff declined to grant him another continuance for medical reasons.

Strehlow, who pled guilty in the case, was sentenced to 8 years Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 in the automobile death of Summer Harmon.

Strehlow was to be sentenced March 10, but he had back surgery March 1, and his sentencing was moved to June 7. He was in the hospital that day, so a status hearing was held July 28, at which his attorney, Louis F. Pignatelli of Rock Falls, asked Senneff for another continuance, citing Strehlow’s upcoming therapy appointments.

Senneff said that, without documentation from Strehlow’s doctor that a sentencing hearing would impair his health, he would be sentenced Sept. 25.

Whiteside County Circuit Court Judge Trish Senneff would allow no further continuances in Doug Strehlow's case, which took more than six years from the time of Summer Harmon's death to resolve. He was sentenced Sept. 25, 2023, to eight years in prison.

Pignatelli filed a motion Sept. 8 motion seeking a 60-day continuance, again for medical reasons. Senneff denied that motion, and sentencing proceeded Monday.

A civil suit accusing Strehlow and two of the bars that served him of Harmon’s wrongful death still is proceeding; a case management conference is set for Oct. 2 in Whiteside County court.

Defense attorney Louis Pignatelli speaks near the start of a sentencing hearing for Doug Strehlow Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 in Whiteside County court in Morrison.
Have a Question about this article?
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.