MORRISON – A Milledgeville man accused of driving with a blood alcohol content level nearly three times the legal limit when he crashed into a car, resulting in the death of the driver 3 days later, will be tried by a jury on Sept. 20, 4 years after the collision.
Douglas M. Strehlow, who turned 48 on Wednesday, the day the trial date was set, was southbound on state Route 40 just north of Fulfs Road around 2:40 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2018, when his pickup crossed the center line and collided nearly head-on with a northbound passenger car driven by Summer D. Harmon, 40, of Sterling, who was delivering newspapers for Sauk Valley Media.
Harmon, a 1995 Rock Falls High School graduate who worked as motor route carrier for SVM for more than 20 years, died Aug. 22, 2018, in a Wisconsin hospital of blunt force trauma.
According to then-Whiteside County Sheriff’s traffic reconstructionist Sgt. Kris Schmidt, who testified at Strehlow’s probable cause hearing in July 20018, Strehlow told the first officer on the scene that the crash “was all my fault.”
He consented to a blood draw at the scene, and his blood also was drawn at CGH Medical Center. The State Police lab put the first BAC at .229; the legal limit is .08. The second blood draw result was .270, Schmidt testified.
In addition to consuming alcohol at three locations that night, Strehlow also told investigators that morphine and other medication had him “feeling loopy,” and that he had no recollection of the crash, Schmidt said.
Strehlow was arrested June 2, 2019, and charged with two counts of aggravated DUI involving a death, punishable by 3 to 7 years in prison.
He originally was held on $500,000 bond, that was reduced to $300,000 on Sept. 28, 2018, and 2 years later, on Sept. 4, 2020 he posted $30,000 and was freed.
Whiteside County State’s Attorney Terry Costello is prosecuting; Pignatelli & Associates in Rock Falls is representing Strehlow, and Judge Trish Senneff is presiding.
In addition to his criminal charges, Strehlow and two of the bars he was drinking at that night are being sued by Harmon’s family for wrongful death.
Sterling attorney James Mertes represents Harmon’s father, Ernest F. Anderson of Rock Falls, executor of her estate.
On June 1, 2018, he sued 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.., both in Milledgeville, and The Mill Wheel Tavern LLC, seeking 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.
The next case management conference is May 9.