MORRISON – A Milledgeville man whose blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit when he hit a car in August 2017, causing the death of the driver three days later, pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated DUI resulting in death.
Douglas M. Strehlow will be sentenced March 10 in Whiteside County Court. He faces three to seven years in prison.
Per a plea agreement, a second count of the same charge was dismissed.
If the sentencing date holds, it will come 20 days before he turns 49.
Strehlow was southbound on state Route 40 in Sterling, just north of Fulfs Road, at about 2:40 a.m. that Aug. 19 when his pickup crossed the center line and collided nearly head-on with a 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, 2017, 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 to arrive 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, 2018. He 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.
He remains free until sentencing.
In the meantime, a civil suit accusing him and the owners of the bars where he was drinking of Harmon’s wrongful death is proceeding in Whiteside County Court.
On June 4, 2018, Sterling attorney James Mertes, who represents Harmon’s father, Ernest F. Anderson of Rock Falls, executor of her estate, 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 claim can cover personal injury, property damage, and damage that leads to a the loss of support or society of the victim.
A case management conference is set for Jan. 9.