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Closed-door talks begin after mistrial in 2017 reckless homicide case that killed pregnant Beecher woman, 3 sons

Defendant Sean Woulfe listens to closing arguments on Monday at the Will County Courthouse. Sean Woulfe, 29, is charge with reckless homicide of Lindsey Schmidt, 29, and her three sons, Owen, 6, Weston, 4, and Kaleb, 1. Monday, Mar. 28, 2022, in Joliet.

Attorneys on both sides of a case against an Orland Park man accused of reckless homicide in a 2017 crash met privately Tuesday with a Will County judge in an effort that could lead to a resolution after his first trial ended with a locked jury.

An attorney for Sean Woulfe, 30, on Tuesday asked Judge Dan Rippy for a meeting in the case following the March 30 mistrial after jurors were deadlocked. The closed-door conference held Tuesday and continued until later this month could lead to a resolution without Woulfe being tried a second time.

Woulfe is charged with reckless homicide in the deaths of Lindsey Schmidt, 29, her unborn child, and her sons Owen, 6, Weston, 4, and Kaleb, 1. Schmidt and her children were killed in the tragic crash on July 24, 2017, in Washington Township.

George Lenard, Woulfe’s attorney, asked Rippy for what’s known as a 402 conference, which is a meeting held in the judge’s chambers between defense attorneys and prosecutors to discuss the facts of the case. The conference is governed by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402.

At the end of the conference, the judge may make a recommended sentence if the defendant were to plead guilty.

Both sides met with Rippy for the closed-door meeting on Tuesday, without Woulfe present.

Judge Dan Rippy talks to the jury during closing arguments on Monday in the case against Sean Woulfe at the Will County Courthouse. Sean Woulfe, 29, is charge with reckless homicide of Lindsey Schmidt, 29, and her three sons, Owen, 6, Weston, 4, and Kaleb, 1. Monday, Mar. 28, 2022, in Joliet.

Rippy decided to continue the 402 conference to May 20 because he received a voluminous amount of information in the conference that he wanted to review.

Neither side in the Woulfe case can talk about it publicly or respond to questions. Rippy placed a gag order on participants in the case on Sept. 14, 2017, the same day Woulfe was arraigned.

The trial against Woulfe lasted four days and the jury was unable to reach a verdict before Rippy declared the mistrial.

During that trial, Norberto Navarro, 30, of Calumet City, the sole witness to the crash, testified that Woulfe blew through a stop sign and struck Schmidt’s vehicle.

“It was so loud, it sounded like an explosion,” Navarro said of the impact.

During closing arguments, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Capelli said the case had nothing to do with luck or an act of God. He said the crash that killed Schmidt and her children would have been “totally avoidable” if Woulfe had driven with “reasonable care.”

“This isn’t a strike of lightning,” Capelli said.

Prosecutors said investigators determined Woulfe drove 83 to 84 mph within the five seconds leading up to the crash and there were no signs that Woulfe braked before impact.

Prosecutor Adam Capelli makes closing arguments on Monday in the case against Sean Woulfe at the Will County Courthouse. Sean Woulfe, 29, is charge with reckless homicide of Lindsey Schmidt, 29, and her three sons, Owen, 6, Weston, 4, and Kaleb, 1. Monday, Mar. 28, 2022, in Joliet.

Lenard said the state had not proven his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is not a case of reckless homicide,” Lenard said.

Lenard said Woulfe was not intoxicated or using his phone but was not familiar with the intersection. He also said there was no evidence Woulfe drove erratically. He said Woulfe believed the other vehicle had the stop sign, which shows he did not have a conscious disregard for the sign.

Defense lawyer George Lenard makes closing arguments on Monday in the case against Sean Woulfe at the Will County Courthouse. Sean Woulfe, 29, is charge with reckless homicide of Lindsey Schmidt, 29, and her three sons, Owen, 6, Weston, 4, and Kaleb, 1. Monday, Mar. 28, 2022, in Joliet.