MORRISON – The trial of a Milledgeville man accused of driving with a blood alcohol content nearly three times the legal limit when he hit a car in August 2018, resulting in the death of the driver three days later, is postponed three more months.
This will be the last delay for 48-year-old Douglas M. Strehlow, Whiteside County Circuit Court Judge Trish Senneff sternly warned at a hearing Sept. 12.
Strehlow’s trial was to have begun Tuesday, but his attorney, Louis F. Pignatelli of Rock Falls, convinced Senneff to allow one more continuance because Strehlow is in the process of coming up with the money to pay for an expert witness.
State’s Attorney Terry Costello did not object to the delay.
Senneff noted that the defense has been granted more than 20 continuances, which included a request for time to hire an expert witness.
“The Court reiterates that, barring any unforeseen and extreme circumstance, there will be NO FURTHER CONTINUANCES,” the online court record from that hearing reads.
The final pretrial hearing will be held Nov. 30, and the trial will begin Dec. 13.
Pignatelli also is seeking to exclude any information on any previous charges that may have been filed against Strehlow, who has no felony or criminal misdemeanor convictions. He was charged in December 2014 with aggravated battery, a felony, but that case was dismissed.
Costello has not yet filed a response to that motion.
Strehlow was southbound on state Route 40 just north of Fulfs Road about 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 testimony from then-Whiteside County sheriff traffic reconstructionist Sgt. Kris Schmidt, 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 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 drinking 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 three to seven years in prison.
He originally was held on $500,000 bond that was reduced to $300,000 on Sept. 28, 2018, and two years later on Sept. 4, 2020, he posted $30,000 and was freed.