Friends, family of woman killed in U.S. 45 accident seek harsher charges for other driver

Friends, family of woman killed in U.S. 45 accident seek harsher charges for other driver

URBANA — Family and friends of a Rantoul woman killed in a traffic accident in September on U.S. 45 want prosecutors to file more serious charges against the man who hit her.

"We hope to put pressure on (Assistant State's Attorney) William Lynch to prosecute Markus Davis for involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide or something other than failure to reduce speed," Ethel Esters said Thursday as she and others held signs up to passing motorists outside the Champaign County Courthouse.

The Champaign woman was the godmother to the late Shana Outlaw, killed Sept. 13 on U.S. 45 north of Urbana when her broken-down car was hit in the dark from behind by a pickup truck driven by Davis.

The sign display — featuring photos of Ms. Outlaw and phrases such as: "We lost a life. You got a ticket," and "Sorry isn't good enough" — was timed to coincide with the initial court appearance by Davis before Judge Adam Dill.

At the request of Davis' attorney, Toby Ortega, Dill continued the case until Dec. 13. Ortega declined to say anything else while the case is unresolved.

Calling it a "tragic accident," State's Attorney Julia Rietz said based on the reports her office has, there is not enough evidence to charge the 30-year-old East Lynn man with anything more serious than the fine-only traffic offense.

Illinois State Police reported on the day of the crash that Ms. Outlaw, 23, had stopped in the right southbound lane of U.S. 45 south of Leverett Road about 5:50 a.m. that Thursday and got out. Her three children remained in the car in car seats.

Police said Davis, who was southbound in his pickup truck, did not see the disabled car and hit it in the rear, causing it to flip over into the ditch and his pickup to flip on its top in the left lane.

Rietz said she has a report from a witness who was behind Davis' truck. That man told police it was dark and foggy and that he saw Davis' brake lights go on and then the crash. He had to brake quickly himself to avoid being involved in the collision.

The man stopped to help get the children out and told police that Ms. Outlaw was inside the overturned car and crawled out the passenger-side window under her own power. Police found her outside nearby, gravely injured.

Ms. Outlaw died of multiple traumatic injuries. The children — ages 8 months, 4 and 6 at the time — were not seriously injured.

Esters told The News-Gazette that Ms. Outlaw had called her mother, Tammy, twice from the scene and reported that she was on the side of the road with her hazard lights on.

"The witness said she was off the road and having car trouble," Esters said, urging Rietz to take a more thorough look at the witness statement.

"Chemical tests were conducted, with no evidence of drugs or alcohol in Davis' system. There is no evidence that Davis was using a cellphone or was otherwise distracted, no evidence that he was speeding and no evidence that he was driving recklessly," Rietz said. "This was a tragic accident."

Doretha Outlaw of Bloomington said her younger sister was on her way to pick up a co-worker and the women were ultimately headed to work at Rantoul Foods.

With tears in her eyes, she said she understands why there may not be enough evidence to support a more-serious charge. But that shouldn't stop Davis from reaching out to their family, she said.

"He hasn't apologized or nothing. Does he know we are suffering? If you kill somebody, you reach out to the family and apologize," Doretha Outlaw said.

Esters said Shana Outlaw was one of five children born to Tammy Outlaw. Esters said her friend is raising her three grandchildren alone and is struggling with her grief.

"The pain is so bad. She doesn't have time to grieve for herself," Esters said.

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