ST. JOSEPH – Two men were killed Monday in a series of crashes on Interstate 74 that followed the murders of a Danville couple.
Champaign County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Fabian said this morning that the case is still under investigation, but is being handled as a murder-suicide, based on statements from eyewitnesses and evidence collected at the scene of the crashes just east of St. Joseph.
In Danville, police said authorities there are investigating an apparent double murder of the parents of one man involved in the crashes.
Fabian said Gary Myers, 43, of Danville was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital at 6 p.m. Monday. Seth Meiller, 24, of Lutherville, Md., was pronounced dead by the coroner's office at 6:07 p.m. Monday at the scene of the accident just east of St. Joseph, he said.
Master Sgt. Dennis Stark of the Illinois State Police post at Pesotum said the incident started in the westbound lanes of I-74 just east of St. Joseph at 5:10 p.m. The multiple-vehicle collision on Interstate 74 Monday evening closed the interstate in both directions for almost three hours.
Authorities were not releasing the names of a semitrailer truck driver involved or a passenger in Mr. Meiller's vehicle. Fabian said that Mr. Meiller and his sister were both moving from Maryland to Colorado. The two did not know Mr. Myers, he said.
"It could have been anybody on the Interstate," Fabian said.
Stark said a pickup truck and a Subaru station wagon were both westbound on I-74 one mile east of the St. Joseph exit about 5:10 p.m. Monday when the Subaru, driven by Mr. Meiller, started passing the truck, driven by Mr. Myers. The truck then crossed the center line and hit the Subaru, causing the driver of the Subaru to temporarily lose control. The driver regained control and was still in the passing lane when the driver of the pickup truck hit the Subaru a second time.
Both vehicles went into the median, according to Stark.
Mr. Myers forced Mr. Meiller across the median into the eastbound lane, where it was hit by an eastbound semitrailer truck, according to Fabian.
Stark said the semi truck hit the Subaru in the driver's door.
Mr. Meiller died instantly from massive head injuries, according to the coroner's office.
The semi driver also lost control of his rig, crossed the median and came to rest blocking both westbound lanes of I-74, state police said.
Mr. Myers got out of his truck and slashed his own neck with a knife, Fabian said. Mr. Myers was airlifted to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
A passenger in the Subaru also was taken to Carle by ambulance, state police reported.
Stark said traffic was rerouted to U.S. 150 while the investigation was completed and the vehicles removed. The interstate reopened about 8 p.m.
At about 10 p.m. Monday, a family member went to the home of Don and Shirley Myers of 406 Dennis Drive in Danville to check on them, according to Danville police spokesman Larry Thomason. Mr. Myers was 74; his wife, 69, according to the Vermilion County coroner's office.
The Myerses were found dead, apparently due to blunt force trauma. However, the cause of death will be determined by autopsy later today, Thomason said.
Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson told The Associated Press today she believes the couple had been dead since Saturday.
The Champaign County Coroner had asked the Vermilion County coroner's office to notify the Myerses of the death of their son, but a deputy coroner was unable to contact anyone at the house.
A relative had also been notified by the Champaign County coroner and had come into town with a key. The relative found the Myerses' bodies, Thomason said.
Angie Kelly happened to catch a glimpse of a number of people in the yard at the Myerses' house just across the street from her home between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Monday.
"The motion lights were on and so were their neighbors. Then three police cars came up," said Angie Kelly. "I went and got my husband.
"Then we saw the chief of police arrive and some unmarked cars, investigators, I think, so I knew it had to be bad," said Kelly.
Kelly said she learned of the Myerses' deaths around midnight.
"They were nice, really sweet people and grandparent-like to my children."
Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Fairchild said Mr. Myers was being supervised by Illinois parole officials for aggravated robbery and felony assault convictions he had received in Ohio.
He was sentenced in 1991 in Ohio, according to Andrea Dean, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. He was released on June 3 to his parents.
The deaths are being investigated as murders. Anyone with information about the activities or whereabouts of the victims in the past few days is asked to contact the Danville Police Department investigations unit at 431-2250.
Danville City Comptroller Ron Neufeld recalls the Myerses as an extremely nice couple. Neufeld and Don Myers were part of a team sent to Lommel, Belgium, to build a new Teepak plant around 1974.
"Myers lived in Antwerp, which was about an hour's drive from Lommel, because there was an American school there. Their kids were about junior high or high school then, I can't remember," said Neufeld, who worked for Teepak at the time.
Neufeld said the men had pretty much gone their separate ways over the years.
"We hadn't been close lately," Neufeld said. "I saw Don at the farmers' market not long ago. They were just nice, nice people."
News-Gazette staff writers Steve Bauer, Pat Phillips and Mary Schenk contributed to this report.