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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

Press Release

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Joseph Kucharski Sentenced to Seven Years for Crash That Killed 17-Year-Old Beth Dunlap

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin announced today that following a lengthy sentencing hearing a Naperville man has been sentenced to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for striking seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Dunlap with his car and killing her in February, 2019. On January 9, 2020, Joseph Kucharski, 52 (d.o.b. 8/9/1967) with a last known address in Naperville, entered a blind plea of guilty (which means there was no agreement on sentencing with the State) to one count of Aggravated DUI-Alcohol/Drugs Causing Death, a Class 2 Felony and one count of Reckless Homicide, a Class 3 Felony, in front of Judge Alex McGimpsey who handed down today’s sentence. Under current Illinois law, the maximum penalty for Aggravated DUI-Alcohol/Drugs Causing Death is fourteen years in the IDOC, which the State had requested.

On February 19, 2019, at approximately 10:55 a.m. the Downers Grove Police Department responded to a report of a person, later identified as Downers Grove North student Elizabeth Dunlap, struck by a vehicle in the intersection of Main and Grant Streets, just steps away from the main entrance to Downers Grove North High School. An investigation into the incident revealed that Dunlap was on her way to school crossing Main St. within the marked crosswalk, in conjunction with the “Walk” signal, when she was struck by a vehicle traveling northbound in the southbound lanes on Main Street. The investigation further revealed that the vehicle, driven by Kucharski, entered the intersection at Grant Street against a red light. At the time of the crash, Kucharski had a blood alcohol content of 0.031 and exhibited signs of impairment when interviewed by police. Further investigation revealed that Kucharski had alcohol, Xanax and cocaine in his system. Authorities also found two crack pipes, crack cocaine and other drugs as well as vodka and beer at a hotel room in which Kucharski was staying. In his car authorities found Xanax, Benadryl and suboxone. Elizabeth Dunlap suffered life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead from her injuries on Friday, February 22. That same day, Judge Robert Miller issued a $5 million arrest warrant for Kucharski. Four days later, on February 26, Kucharski appeared in Bond Court where bond was set in the amount of $750,000 with 10% to apply. On May 15, 2019, Kucharski posted the necessary $75,000, or 10%, of his bond and was released from custody.

“On February 19, 2019, Joseph Kucharski’s incredibly reckless actions killed seventeen-year-old Beth Dunlap,” Berlin said. “This senseless loss of such a young, promising life also deeply wounded the entire community, hitting the students and staff at Downers Grove North High School, where Beth was a standout member of the student body, particularly hard. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering Beth’s family and friends have endured since her passing – a pain they will undoubtedly carry with them for the rest of their lives. It is my sincerest hope that those who loved Beth will someday be able to remember her not only with a heavy heart and a tear in their eye but with a smile on their face. While I respect the judge’s decision, this case warranted the maximum punishment of fourteen years. This tragic case also exposed what I believe to be inadequate sentencing parameters available to the Court that do not equate the loss with the punishment. Just as those working in construction zones rightfully enjoy enhanced penalties the law provides, I believe our children deserve similar, if not stronger, protections and that is why I will be introducing legislation in Beth’s honor that will further protect our children when going to and leaving school. I would like to thank Assistant State’s Attorneys Nancy Donahoe and Kristin Sullivan as well as the Downers Grove Police Department for their efforts in holding Joseph Kucharski responsible for the death of Beth Dunlap”

Kucharski will be required to serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole.