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Highland Park woman guilty in deadly ‘huffing’ crash

Carly Rousso (right) walks out Administrative Offices 19th Judicial Circuit DivisiProbatiWater Street after she was convicted Thursday afternoon. | Michael

Carly Rousso (right) walks out of the Administrative Offices of the 19th Judicial Circuit Division of Probation on Water Street after she was convicted Thursday afternoon. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Updated: July 1, 2014 6:36AM

A Highland Park teen who confessed to being high on inhalants when she ran over a family of four with her father’s Lexus, killing a young girl, was found guilty of aggravated DUI by a Lake County judge on Thursday.

It took Judge James Booras less than 30 minutes to find 19-year-old Carly Rousso guilty on all four counts of the charge.

“To most people [air duster] is a cleaning agent. To the defendant it’s a drug,” said Booras before finding Rousso guilty of running over 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, her mother, and two brothers.

Both families declined to comment after Thursday’s verdict. But speaking on behalf of Jaclyn’s family, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim told reporters that they are still grieving.

“They were hoping for justice and they feel like they got justice today,” Nerheim said.

Rousso, who continues to be free on $500,000 bail posted by her parents, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide before her trial started this week.

She faces a maximum of 14 years in prison at a sentencing hearing in July.

On the day of the Sept. 3, 2012 crash, Rousso told her mom that she was going to get a bite to eat. Instead, she drove her father’s car to a Walgreens and bought two cans of computer air duster, she told police during a videotaped confession.

“Huffing” the contents of a can while cruising through Highland Park she told police, she “must have passed out.”

Witness testimony, backed up by surveillance video, showed that Rousso’s car crossed oncoming lanes of traffic and barreled over a curb before striking the family as they walked on a sidewalk.

A video shows the Lexus reversing several car lengths before running over the injured girl a second time.

Then the car lurched forward again, running over the girl a third time, according to Dana Poncher and her son, Adam, who both testified Tuesday at the Waukegan courthouse.

Adam Poncher testified that Rousso was not fully conscious as he pounded on the window to try to stop her from driving over the girl again.

When Rousso finally appeared to regain consciousness, she asked in a slurry drawl: “What happened?” Adam Poncher said.

At one point, when asked by police if she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Rousso replied: “Not any more,” officials said.

During closing arguments. her attorney, Douglas Zeit, did not deny she was responsible for a “horrific” crash.

“She struck and killed an innocent 5-year-old girl,” Zeit said. “This crime was reckless.”

But Zeit, who didn’t call any witnesses, repeatedly argued state law is vague when it comes to inhalants, including a chemical in the air duster.

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