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.