Sentencing hearing begins in fatal Balmoral DUI crash
BY JON SEIDEL Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org April 4, 2012 4:55PM
Updated: April 4, 2012 10:24PM
A Balmoral Park security guard said Wednesday he had to chase the Michigan man who caused a fatal drunken-driving crash at the park in April 2011 after the man disobeyed orders to stay at the scene.
Balmoral security officer David Bartucci told a judge 42-year-old Angus Lake led him on a 10-minute pursuit through the park grounds until Lake stopped at a barn, washed his hands and tried to feed his race horses before returning to the accident scene. Lake did so, Bartucci said, 20 minutes after he was told to stay at the scene of the crash he caused that killed Michelle Eustis, a 25-year-old horse trainer from Crete who Lake had dated.
The details of the bizarre incident came out in testimony as Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt prepared to sentence Lake for the accident that also injured Heather France of Three Rivers, Mich. Lake, a horse driver at the park, pleaded guilty in January to aggravated driving under the influence. The judge said he’d likely hand down Lake’s sentence April 12.
Schoenstedt heard police and paramedics talk Wednesday about the April 11, 2011, accident. Then his courtroom turned emotional when Jaquelyn Eustis struggled to read a statement about her late sister Michelle, who left behind a daughter who is now 8. Lake rested his head in his left hand as she began to read, blocking his eyes.
“When Michelle died a part of me died with her,” Jaquelyn Eustis said. “I learned an entire new meaning of the phrase, ‘I miss you.’ We were supposed to do so many things together, and now all of that is taken away. It breaks my heart that she will never be at my wedding, be my maid of honor or have her own wedding. She will never see my daughter or her own grow up.”
Jaquelyn Eustis asked Schoenstedt to give Lake the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. She also said she never understood why her sister dated Lake.
“What is a gorgeous 25-year-old doing with an old man like him?” Jaquelyn Eustis said. “I never liked him or the situation.”
Illinois State Police Special Agent Cornelious Monroe testified Lake told him he’d raced horses at the track April 10 and, afterward, he and Michelle Eustis drank at Throwback Bar & Grill in Crete until it closed. When it came time to leave, the officer said, another racer invited them to a gathering at his barn at Balmoral Park.
Lake said he had four or five “swigs” of Captain Morgan rum from a bottle at the barn, Monroe said. But Eustis and France, meanwhile, decided to leave and go riding bareback on a horse. Lake got in his truck to go look for them about 20 minutes later.
Prosecutors have said Lake came upon the women’s horse on Backstretch Road shortly before 5 a.m., hit the brakes hard and spun his truck. It hit the horse, prosecutors said, and the women fell to the ground.
But Monroe said Lake told him he’d actually driven his truck alongside the horse, which started bucking its head and hit the truck. Lake also told the officer he was driving about 20 mph. A state police accident reconstructionist told the judge Lake couldn’t have been driving slower than 46 mph, though.
Eustis suffered head trauma when she hit the ground and died. France, now 22, said she could barely walk months after the accident but said she’d mostly recovered at the time of Lake’s guilty plea in January.