How did DUI driver walk free?

How did DUI driver walk free?

MAHOMET — Illinois State Police say they will review their procedures in the aftermath of a New Year's morning drunken driving crash that left a Mahomet woman dead and authorities in search of the Guatemala native who allegedly hit her.

Responding to criticism over the decision not to charge Esteban J. Tomas until nine days after LaDonna "Jeannie" Brady's death, Master Sgt. Ryan Starrick said in a statement to The News-Gazette that changes will be made, though he stopped short of admitting fault.

"During a review of our protocols following this event, District 10 has recognized our current protocol for handling aggravated DUI was not properly aligned with the Champaign County State's Attorney," he said in an e-mail. "Our personnel are working with the Champaign County State's Attorney's office to ensure that our district protocols are updated, and on point with the wishes of their office."

In an interview last week, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz didn't want to blame state police, but said the incident has been "a source of conversation and discussion ... about the process."

Mrs. Brady's husband remains frustrated, questioning why Tomas was allowed to leave Carle Foundation Hospital, where both drivers were taken following the crash, without handcuffs on.

"I don't understand why he wasn't arrested at the hospital," Eric Brady said. "I would have thought that it would have been kind of a common-sense decision, you know?

"This man has a passport, but no valid license. He's not a citizen. That all adds up to a flight risk in my mind."

Beyond Starrick's statement, state police declined to comment on the details of the ongoing investigation.

Four aliases, no license

Mrs. Brady worked New Year's Eve as a bartender at the American Legion Post 71 in downtown Urbana, where she was also a member of the auxiliary.

Tomas, 33, of Champaign, had also been working that night, but was let off early to party, according to Eric Brady, who has met with state police and Rietz.

Mrs. Brady was driving west to her Mahomet home on Interstate 74 near Neil Street when she collided just after 1 a.m. with the black SUV allegedly driven by Tomas, who was eastbound, police say.

They were both immediately taken to Carle, and since no one witnessed the crash, it was initially unclear to police who was driving which direction.

Mrs. Brady was pronounced dead at 1:55 a.m. Tomas left the hospital with a broken arm and a notice to appear in court for a DUI and not having a valid driver's license, Eric Brady said.

Nine days later, state police asked for the public's help in finding Tomas after it was determined that he was the one driving the wrong way on Jan. 1.

Seventeen days after the crash, Rietz filed two felony counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol against Tomas.

It's been more than a month now and Tomas' whereabouts are still unknown. Complicating the search: Authorities say he went by multiple names, with his other aliases including Estaban Tomas Juarez, Estaban Juarez-Tomas, Estaban Juarez Tomas and Victor Ochoa.

Rietz said Tomas apparently never had a valid Illinois license.

Rietz: ISP had options

State police initially believed Tomas was driving in the right direction based on what appears to be an erroneous witness report.

While no one reported a vehicle driving the wrong way or seeing the crash, a woman told authorities she had seen a black SUV, presumably Tomas' car, pass her westbound.

"I think she might have been mistaken, maybe it was a different car, I don't know," Rietz told WDWS' Jim Turpin last week. "Based on that information, their initial thought was that she was driving the wrong way."

While Tomas was on the way to the hospital, a state police trooper called Rietz's on-call attorney to ask if they could get a blood test done for Tomas since there had been a fatality.

"At that time, they didn't know whether he was impaired or not. They had not actually seen him. He was immediately taken to the hospital," Rietz said. "We said, yes, you can still seek a blood test because of the fatality, and then we didn't hear from them again."

After receiving the results of the blood test — which Eric Brady said showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.218 percent, almost three times the limit for a motorist to be presumed intoxicated — state police determined he was impaired and wrote him tickets for a DUI, Rietz said.

Why they stopped there has led to an avalanche of criticism. Rietz said it was state police's decision not to arrest Tomas, not her office's.

"They didn't take him into physical custody," she said. "They didn't call my on-call attorney to follow up in any way, and when he was released from the hospital, he was released, and here we are."

She continued: "They could've taken him into physical custody and taken him to the jail. They could've waited at the hospital for him to be released and taken him to the jail. They could've arrested him on felony DUI because of the fact that his license was not valid."

Husband: 'They had him'

After the ISP's Accident Reconstruction Unit visited the scene a few days after the crash, it became clear Mrs. Brady was driving the correct direction, Eric Brady said.

State police are now working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals to find Tomas, who is believed to still be in the country.

"They did confiscate his passport, so it would be a little more difficult for him, but not impossible (to return to Guatemala)," Eric Brady said.

While he doesn't believe there was any intentional wrongdoing, he says the case has been "a series of failures, like dominoes."

He remains hopeful, but doubtful that authorities will find Tomas.

"Certainly I would like to see that happen," he said. "But a person that's been deported a number of times knows the ropes to how to get in and out, and who to talk to, how to get places. He knows that system. It's going to be hard for them to find him."

Since the crash, Eric Brady said each day has been a struggle.

"I think for the time being that they are doing their due diligence to try to catch this guy, but it's almost a little too little, too late. Because they had him. They shouldn't have to go catch him," he said. "So it's a challenge not to be angry every day."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes. wrote on February 12, 2017 at 6:02 am

This was a major malfunction on the part of ISP and the SA office.   While I agree that maybe  ISP did not call back, wouldnt the SA on call wonder... gee I wonder what happened?   If this had been an ISP trooper you can rest assured that his goof would have been taken off to jail in handcuffs.  Same rules apply here.............ISP claims to be the premier law enforcement agency in the State.  They did not show that here............


But the good news is that we are a sanctuary county, so and other  "hard working" non citizen was not detained by the evil police.




Your thoughts?

rsp wrote on February 12, 2017 at 9:02 am

We are not a sanctuary county. Sounds like you don't know what that means anyway. What exactly did the SA do wrong? You go back and forth like watching a tennis match.

maybe  ISP did not call back, wouldnt the SA on call wonder, If this had been an ISP trooper.

It's not the job of the SA to police the police, hold their hands, call repeatedly to see how their day is going. They called at the start for a legal opinion. That is the SA's job. The investigation has to be independent. wrote on February 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

When things go wrong for Ms. Reiz its never the fault of her office, but rather theh police, witnesses etc.  This was an EPIC failure on the part of her office and ISP.  Again.. the question I pose to Ms. Reitz.  If this had been an ISP trooper in the same accident, how would your office have handled it.   The motorist immigration status  ( had he overstayed his VISA what is his REAL NAME) should have been handled if this was NOT a DONT ASK County.   He had no DL and no Insurance.  He should have been arrested that night.  Quit being an apologist for Ms. Reitz.  This goes in a long line of cases that her office has bungled over the past few years...


the citizens of Champaign County knew the type of SA office we have had for the ;past 12 years.  Its time for a change, but they spoke and the electors decided that change was not something that they wanted.


Elections have consequences.  This is one of them.

Marty wrote on February 13, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Our great judges would probably let him off with a slap on the wrist and a promise to try to avoid killing anyone in the future.

stingray1970 wrote on February 12, 2017 at 9:02 am
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Yay for a series of failures!

cwdog57 wrote on February 12, 2017 at 9:02 am

we can't even protect ourselves from "south of the border" illegal aliens much less  a possible terrorist threat from immigrants from arab countries. (just trying to be politically correct here!) yep santuary city.  the place to come for all you illegal needs.

Nero Wolfe wrote on February 12, 2017 at 9:02 am

Just the tip of the iceberg if we continue to follow the insane open borders and sanctuary city policies of the "Hate America First" alt-left. Thank God for President Trump. 

chief21 wrote on February 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

Interesting that the driver had left work so he could enjoy a party. What business is it that hires illegals? Pretty much the roofing and construction/painters are being whiped out by the illegals. Why didnt he just hide in Urbana our sanctuary city?

jlawless wrote on February 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

Why does this article only say where Jeannie Brady was working and conveniently leave out where Tomas was working?    Stop protecting the employers that bring these folks in.  Eric should sue whoever employed this guy especially if he was partying there as well.

John Joseph wrote on February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

The reason he wasn't arrested is because, had he been in police custody while being treated, the state would have been responsible for paying his medical bills.  It is common practice for law enforcement agencies to avoid arresting those who are in need of medical treatment for this reason.  So they don't arrest them at the time but once he is released from the hospital they will take him into custody.  This is a horrible practice which has many times resulted in tragedy.  Sadly it boils down to the almighty dollar.  Of course the agencies will never admit this publicly but this is the truth.  I've seen it done many times and law enforcement administrations pressure their officers to proceed this way.  Where should blame be placed?  At the feet of the state police administration.   

Automan wrote on February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm
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So the point of failure was where the state police failed to arrest him after he was treated and released at the hospital? Would the State Police pay for officer time waiting at the hospital to see if he would be released shortly?

Bystander wrote on February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm
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Interesting how much emotional relief the survivor of Mrs. Brady places into the criminal justice system. Many complain about the criminal justice system nowadays, but look how much the criminal justice system is missed when justice is absent from this tragedy. wrote on February 12, 2017 at 12:02 pm

here is how the conversation should have gone at  the hospital


Trooper:  See that guy over there?  Call us when he is about to be released.


Hospital staff:  Ok


Or................ figure out how long he is going  to be there, PAY a Troooper to sit with him,............


Why has the company that hired this illegal not been charged with immigration violations?  I remember a roofing company last year got hit in a huge raid............. when is ICE going to come in and start arresting and deporting those folks.....................this was a HOLIDAY party he got drunk at apparently hosted by the aformentioned company.

John Joseph wrote on February 13, 2017 at 5:02 am

The problem with relying on hospital staff to notify officers once a suspect is about to be released is that many times, by the time the cops get there to take him into custody, he is already gone.  Hospital staff can't detain him waiting on police arrival.  They can try to stall him but if he decides he wants to leave there is nothing they can do about it.  Sometimes a suspect will feign a serious injury.  Once the police are gone they will leave the hospital on their own against medical advise.  For example, I know of a case where a guy was taken into custody but needed medical treatment so the cops got him to the hospital.  He was unarrested for the forementioned reasons and the cops told staff to call them once he was about to be released.  Once the cops left he got up and hobbled out against medical advice.  He disappeared and in less than a week committed a triple homicide.   

MSJ66 wrote on February 12, 2017 at 2:02 pm

I couldnt agree more with the comments about the employers hiring illegals. I'd be curious to know the legal status of all the hispanic workers that work for Amigo Construction out of Wisconsin. They are a sub contractor doing a lot of work on multiple apartment buildings for Broeren-Russo Construction. I see them all packed in a mini school bus with Wisconsin plates everyday coming off Kenwood turning onto Springfield to go work on Broeren-Russo projects in campus town. Be nice to see immigration come and do a job site inspection on some of these sights. Also nice to see after the News Gazette article on Broeren-Russo a few weeks back that we can really see how helpful this company is to the local communuity workers by bringing in out of state contractors. Yes thats sarcasm. The one time I dealt with the mini school bus full of unknown legal status people was at the circle K at Springfield and Kenwood and in the store not a one of them could speak English and couldn't communicate with the cashier. While I am not a big Trump fan I fully support his aggressive efforts to root out all the illegals (not undocumented they are here ILLEGALLY simple enough) and send them back and keep others from coming in. Part of that needs to be aggressive harsh punishment on employers who hire these illegals.

yates wrote on February 12, 2017 at 3:02 pm

This isn't anything new. I'm always reading where some non-resident breaks a law, is let go or is expected to return for a court date and does not. They either hide somewhere until the heat's off or they head for the border to escape justice. If this isn't reason enough for enforcing strict immigration control, what is.

chief21 wrote on February 12, 2017 at 5:02 pm

They need to establish one of those TIP LINES for all this illegal workers, similiar to the crime hotline. My cousin works for a roofing company who are underbid all the time by out of state illegals doing subcontractor work. It's rampant in flooring companies,home repair, landscapers,etc. I ask one of the Sheriff's deputies about this flood of illegal workers and was told it was a waste of time to report this...unless they were committing some sort of assualt or serous felony action it's doubtful anything would become of it.  Couple this with Urbana's sanctuary hazen for illegals and it's a total waste of time. These Urbana City Council folks should have to call Mr. Brady and explain how great this santuary city is. Pitiful.... wrote on February 12, 2017 at 6:02 pm

I still have not heard from the usual suspects on how Trump is wrong to deport people who commit crimes... Yodler you out there?  Saul?  hello????

jlawless wrote on February 12, 2017 at 7:02 pm

I think this guy was already deported multiple times.  But he came back because it so easy to find work.  Would love to know if the same employer hired him back after being deported.  In any event, as long as employers will pay them they will come.  Put some employers in prison or at a minimum fine them.  That is the only way this stops.  Haven't heard Trump go after employers yet.  Just stirring up hatred.

ohnoes wrote on February 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm


Local Yocal wrote on February 13, 2017 at 6:02 am
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It's spelled Yoddler. Sure, you can deport if someone commits a violent crime. Or, as is the point of this article, we could spend our tax dollars for locking him up here in one of our prisons. To do what? Are the state troopers so surprised he split the second he was out of the hospital? Who wants to face a criminal case as an illegal in Champaign County? What chance does he have in criminal court when the jury of his "peers" have been contaminated in the court of public opinion?

And what will we call a crime as grounds to deport? DUI? Domestic Battery? Retail theft? Owning a business? Underbidding other contractors?


ohnoes wrote on February 12, 2017 at 10:02 pm

I think ICE would be pretty good about following up on a tip like that under our new administration.

John Joseph wrote on February 13, 2017 at 4:02 am

Yes, an officer should be required to remain with the arrestee until his treatment is completed, then transport him to jail.  On serious offenses where the arrestee may be in the hospital for an extended period of time an officer should be assigned to guard them until released.  This all adds up to manpower and overtime. wrote on February 13, 2017 at 8:02 am

I am sure that the family of the DEAD vicfim would havd preferred that he was deported PRIOR to the accident, or in the  least   someone from the SA or ISP cared enough about what the family was going throgh, to ensure that this suspect faced justice.


You are more concerned about the cost of incarceration.  I am more concerned that this family lost a valued member.   You do not seem to share the same concern that I have, rather your are more concerned that "sanctuary" county status continues.  In the mean time, continue to support less than minimum wage for these illegals.....with a lack of access to workmans comp etc.   Feel free to ensure that this type of slavery continues in Champaign County and throughout the nation.


John Joseph wrote on February 13, 2017 at 8:02 am

I agree with you.  I am simply pointing out that the law enforcement agencies are more concerned with dollars and cents.  I disagree with their policies on such. 

Local Yocal wrote on February 13, 2017 at 9:02 am
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Drinking and driving is a legitimate reason to send someone back across the border, maybe. Certainly a legitimate reason to commence Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. 

So sending working people across the border does what for the illegal we are so concerned about? 

And yes, wage theft, underpaying, and zero insurance coverage are exploited by the companies that hire these people. But let's see the federal prosectuor or the county state's attorney level criminal charges against these employers. Not likely to happen. wrote on February 13, 2017 at 9:02 am

Well.... if this guy was in Guatamala then he would not have been on I74 going the wrong way now would he?


Good hedging your bet.............. "maybe" either yes or the answer.

Local Yocal wrote on February 13, 2017 at 12:02 pm
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Maybe if he had never been born then he would not have been on I-74 going the wrong way. He didn't intend to kill anybody that night and is now paying with his life on the run or in a state penitentiary jail cell. No one is minimizing the life he took.

Question is how will we extrapolate from this case and use it to send more minor offenders off to Mexico. In memory of "Jeannie" Brady, send 'em all back home. 

MSJ66 wrote on February 13, 2017 at 6:02 pm

If they are here ILLEGALLY then that is the crime. They are criminals. I do not care about their quest for a better life here. They are not legal US citizens and whether they commit any other type of crime or not while here the reality is they are still criminals. ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS. What part of that is so hard for people to understand. Changing the name to undocumented was just stupid political correctness to try and disguise that they are here (again one last time) ILLEGALLY. wrote on February 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm

The Jeannie Brady deportation bill.  I love it.  I will send the request for that information to Sen's Durbin/Duckworth and Cong. Davis.   I will of course, Yodler,  give you credit for it.


You are the best.

Local Yocal wrote on February 14, 2017 at 5:02 am
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Glad to have at least sparked some civic engagement. Congressman Rodney Davis is looking for something to become popular again. 

I think the best you can do is get a new state law that mandates state troopers and police stay at the hospital in the event of fraffic fatalities and one of the drivers is at fault and blood test results are pending.

Police and prosecutors claim he was driving under the influence so at some point during the evening a blood draw was ordered, and somewhere during the evening hospital staff would have known how much he had to drink that night. Why the state troopers left the scene only they can answer. 

Why Esteban Tomas "walked," or rather ran with his arm assumedly in a cast, from the scene speaks volumes about the conditions of our prisons. We can draw conclusions about alcohol-selling in the midst of a consumer-driven car culture, We can talk about the design of I-74 and why is it so easy to swerve into incoming traffic. We can establish the hiring practices of local businsesses. (Still no mention of where Tomas worked?) Which dominoe to fall do we want to pick up?

At the end of the day, most illegal aliens living here are merely working their jobs and trying to pay their bills. 

Injustice_League wrote on February 14, 2017 at 7:02 pm

On 11/19/16, the State Police had pulled this guy over at the intersection of Springfield/Prospect and issued him three tickets. He was cited for driving without a license, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, and driving while on a electronic communication device. His name appears as Juarez T. Esteban on the Circuit Clerk's website. He did give them the same address and date of birth as the 1/1/17 incident. He was scheduled to appear in court on 12/30/16, but the court decided an interpreter was needed so the cause was continued.

On 1/1/17, this criminal is drunk, gets behind the wheel of the same vehicle he was pulled over in 6 weeks prior and ends up killing someone. Apparently the only law he respected enough to abide by was the seatbelt law since he was wearing one according to the ISP report. This time he gives the name Esteban J. Tomas.

On Thursday, 1/12/17, the accident investigation reports were forwarded to the State's Attorney's office. She did not seek felony DUI charges until Tuesday, 1/17/17 at 1:30 p.m. I'm going to assume that she couldn't get on the schedule to see a Judge for Friday the 13th and had to wait until Tuesday since Monday the 16th was a holiday.

On Tuesday, 1/17/17, the State's Attorney files two counts of aggravated DUI charges and a warrant is issued for his arrest. On this same day, he is found guilty for the three charges from 11/19/16. According to the Circuit Clerk's website a plea was not entered so I'm going to assume that he didn't appear in court to answer for those charges either.

A Google search of his name turned up a newspaper article from Daily Review Atlas dated 6/16/09. He was arrested in Warren County, IL on 6/12/09 for driving unlicensed and operating an uninsured motor vehicle. The name he gave this time was Esteban Juarez-Tomas with the same date of birth he had given in the previously described incidents. He was 25 at the time and living in Monmouth, IL. According to the website, the charge for operating an uninsured motor vehicle was dismissed. However, there was another offense listed in Warren County, IL from 3/26/09 where he was ticketed for driving unlicensed.

I'm going to assume that the vehicle he was driving wasn't registered to him since he's never been licensed and the reason why the State Police wasn't aware of the fact that he was ticketed 6 weeks before in the same vehicle.

Changes definitely need to be made in more ways than one whether it's the way a database is cross referenced or the type of technology made available to law enforcement such as mobile biometric fingerprint readers in order to confirm someone's identity when they don't have the proper identification. I know it always boils down to finances, but unfortunately this tragedy could've been avoided on more than one occasion.

Bystander wrote on February 15, 2017 at 7:02 am
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Police should be allowed to impound a car for not driving with a license, insurance, ect. Mobile biometric fingerprint readers would be a good idea too. Would the stingy taxpayers of Champaign County cooperate with the additional expenditure?

Injustice_League wrote on February 16, 2017 at 12:02 am

I agree Bystander... A person who knowingly allows someone to drive their vehicle without a license should be held more accountable as well.

Law enforcement in several other states are currently using biometrics. Criminals can change their name or physical appearance, but they can't change their fingerprints. I watched a show called Nightwatch the other day. The Tampa Police Department had arrested a suspect who didn't have any identification. He gave them a name and they scanned his finger in order to verify. In less than 90 seconds, they had the information. Low and behold, he wasn't who he said he was. A photo popped up with his actual name, date of birth, etc., which was linked to his fingerprint. He was an illegal immigrant with multiple outstanding warrants. I immediately thought of this tragedy and how that device could've prevented the current situation. Champaign Police recently invested in body cameras in order to promote accountability and transparency. I believe their next technological investment in addition to the State Police should be biometrics. 

chief21 wrote on February 15, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Thank you for the info Injustice.....shameful response by our so called "Nation of Laws". Still cannot find where Tomas ( or whatever name he is using this week), was employed and any response from States Attorney on prosecution of the business.

Injustice_League wrote on February 15, 2017 at 10:02 pm

You're welcome chief....The entire situation is sad. It's too bad that the State's Attorney/State Police are more worried about their public reputation instead of owning up to their "erroneous" behavior. The least they can do is utilize all local, state, and federal resources in order to find this guy and bring this family the justice they deserve. This story should remain in the spotlight to serve as a sobering reminder until that day comes.

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 17, 2017 at 10:02 am

I would suggest the police check out Saul's place for Tomas, but I'm pretty sure he lives in a sanctuary casa.

chief21 wrote on February 18, 2017 at 9:02 am

3 Emails to the News-Gazette on the Illegal's employer...No response. 2 Phone Calls to the News-Gazette on the same matter...No Response. Maybe the employer is an advertiser  and they do not want to lose ad money??