Driver charged with DUI, reckless homicide in campus crash

Driver charged with DUI, reckless homicide in campus crash

URBANA — An Urbana man is being held at the Champaign County Jail after he was charged with aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide in connection with the October death of one University of Illinois student and the injury of another.

Willie E. Craft, 58, who listed an address in the 1200 block of West Hill Street, was charged on Friday with two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence and one felony count of reckless homicide.

Judge Richard Klaus set Craft’s bond at $250,000. Craft’s next court appearance was set for Jan. 7.

According to police, Craft was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that hit two women on a six-block stretch of South Lincoln Avenue between Nevada Street and Pennsylvania Avenue at 9:53 a.m. Oct. 9.

According to State’s Attorney Julia Rietz, Craft had cannabis metabolites in his system and drove recklessly due to his low blood sugar, leading to the death of Mimi Liu and injuries to Spandana Mantravadi.

Craft had first been spotted driving erratically on Lincoln Avenue at Fairview Avenue, about 14 city blocks north of Nevada Street.

Once he had reached the UI campus, Urbana police said, Craft’s truck left the road several times, drove across a sidewalk and hit street signs.

After sideswiping a UI Facilities & Services truck, it continued southward before jumping a curb and striking the women.

Ms. Liu, 20, a UI junior in agribusiness from Chicago, died shortly after the accident. Mantravadi, 20, a UI junior majoring in finance, sustained a broken ankle and required surgery.

Craft’s truck eventually came to rest against the retaining wall alongside Illini Grove, about 50 yards north of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Because of the grave injuries to the women, Craft was required to submit to blood draws. The results, returned recently from the state crime laboratory, revealed that he had THC in his system, the active ingredient in cannabis.

Rietz said that any amount of the byproduct of the cannabis is enough to sustain a charge of DUI. It doesn’t matter under the law how much was ingested or when, she said.

The aggravated DUI count involving Ms. Liu is a Class 2 felony carrying penalties ranging from probation to three to 14 years in prison. The aggravated DUI count involving the injury to Mantravadi is a Class 4 felony with penalties upon conviction ranging from probation to one to 12 years in prison.

The reckless homicide charge, a Class 3 felony, alleged that he operated his vehicle in a reckless manner, performing acts likely to cause death or great bodily harm. The penalties for that range from probation to two to five years in prison.

With the issuance of the three felony charges, tickets issued to Craft for driving without insurance and improper lane usage were dismissed.

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alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 09, 2013 at 10:12 pm
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The pri$on for profit industry strikes again!  Who cares if the guy was actually under the influence or not?  The reckless driving homicide is the only valid charge here, and even that is debatable.  Is it illegal to drive while diabetic?

grounded wrote on December 10, 2013 at 8:12 am

Well, I care that he was driving under the influence and will not listen to any excuses for this person's behavior! His negligence resulted in the death of a bright young person, someone's daughter, friend, another human being, and injuring another. I hope he's prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on December 10, 2013 at 11:12 am
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"Truck driver" is misleading, given the modern usage of the term. It connotes a big rig.

Worse, it won't ring a bell to many persons who might otherwise want to know -- especially people who've been following this story.

Mike Howie wrote on December 10, 2013 at 12:12 pm
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Good points. I've changed the headline. Thanks for your comment.

Mike Howie

online editor

alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 10, 2013 at 3:12 pm
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grounded, that's the point....he wasn't actually under the influence.

Having metabolites in your system only means that you have smoked in the past three to four weeks.

Sid Saltfork wrote on December 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

He will do three years, and out.  She will still be dead.  I doubt many people care whether he smoked three months, or five minutes before he killed the young woman.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on December 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm
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If they don't care about that distinction, then shame on them.

Would you support a law that said you couldn't drive for, oh, let's say a week after having an alcoholic drink?  And, if someone happens to be involved in a fatal accident a few days after that drink, should they be charged with DUI and assumed responsible for the death?

There is no practical difference between these two scenarios, other than one is the law and one isn't.

This is how the criminal justice system works.  They are very efficient at picking off the easy targets that nobody will complain about and milking them for all they can.  No tragic accident can be left unexploited by a prosecutor looking to pad their resume.

Another man sentenced to almost a decade a few weeks ago....did some cocaine the day before, was no longer under the influence.  Him and his buddy both drive at reckless speeds down Kirby the next day, bump motorcycles, and his friend tragically  dies in the aftermath.  Somehow, according to the law, the cocaine this man took the day before is the reason for the crash....



Local Yocal wrote on December 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm
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Alabaster Jones 71's point is a good one in that the criminal justice system should have to prove current intoxication that caused the impaired driving. It's surprising there is no drug test yet invented to make the distinction. 

The more important element to this tragedy, if we are to concede the criminal justice system is to help us "fix" this, is whether Mr. Craft should be held liable for his neglected (?) diabetic condition, the more likely cause of his erratic driving.

Whenever Julia throws in extra info, like it doesn't matter when Craft smoked the cannibus, it appears Reitz is reaching yet again for another one of her publicity stunts.

Further suspicion that this is a political prosecution rather than a necessary one is the incident happened on Oct. 9, Craft's arrest doesn't happen until Dec. 6, leaving Craft to drive among us again for 58 days. Why not hold him in custody while the lab tests are being done?

The case to watch for comparison to this one will be the Katheryn Daly case, who accidently killed her 19 year-old cousin while driving DUI. One dollar bet Craft gets10 plus-years in prison, Daly gets 4 years probation. These words are now marked. 

serf wrote on December 10, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Why not hold him in custody while the lab tests are being done?

You are being purposefully stubborn.  If he was held, you would be loudly complaining about being arrested without evidence (which would be a valid concern, unlike this one).  

Local Yocal wrote on December 11, 2013 at 5:12 am
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One would think a dead U of I student would be sufficient evidence to detain someone while waiting for lab tests to determine current intoxication causing the impaired driving or abnormal blood sugar levels causing the impaired driving. Especially since the driver has 26 traffic tickets since 2000, (one of which was for driving under the influence of alcohol) and numerous criminal cases for driving on a revoked license and possessing cannibus. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on December 11, 2013 at 8:12 am
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The system has failed you. Sometimes a birthdate is listed at cccircuitclerk. In this case (these 26 cases), it wasn't.


Those previous offenses belong to the younger Willie Craft.


Unfortunately, we don't have laws allowing us to punish people for being lousy parents,, yet. 

Local Yocal wrote on December 11, 2013 at 9:12 am
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I was going off the middle intitial which was the same in all 26 cases. While the addresses changed occasionally, and the make and models of the car changed, I assumed the middle initial was the deciding factor, but alas, there is indeed a Willie E. the Younger catching numerous cases as well.

The question remains, regardless of Sr.'s actual driving record, can the state catch an unlawful restraint case if it holds a person in custody for reckless homicide while investigating further the nature of the recklessness? Since supplemental discoveries are filed all the time later after arraignment, and IF removing a driving menace off the road were the priority to this prosecution, would you let him roam free for 58 days before arresting him?

As usual, Reitz has her wet finger in the political winds to figure out what to do next so people will "like her." Catching flack for her original charging decision, (which was probably influenced by her original charging decision in the Katheryn Daly DUI,) she has decided to come down on both defendants to appease her critics who would suggest she's too lenient on fatal accidents involving impairment. None of this back and forth has anything to do with consistent principle, and more with her concern over crowd reaction. Such is the risk of having an elected state's attorney.

cretis16 wrote on December 14, 2013 at 9:12 am

You do realize he KILLED this woman?

Local Yocal wrote on December 15, 2013 at 3:12 am
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"You do realize he KILLED this woman?"

Which is what should have been said to law enforcement as they let Craft loose for 58 days before arresting him. And will that question be asked when Katheryn Daly's DUI case is resolved? (who is out on bond, going to work every day, by the way)

And both defendants will answer, "But it was an ACCIDENT."