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Woman pleads guilty to reckless homicide in 5-year-old’s death

Carly Rousso (center) walks out from Lake County Courthouse with her parents during lunch break Tuesday. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

Carly Rousso (center) walks out from the Lake County Courthouse with her parents during lunch break Tuesday. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times

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Updated: May 28, 2014 12:11AM

Just two weeks out of drug rehab, Highland Park teen Carly Rousso had a relapse on Labor Day 2012.

On Tuesday, the 19-year-old sobbed in a Lake County courtroom when prosecutors showed a photo of the little girl she struck and killed while inhaling from an aerosol can and cruising around in her father’s Lexus that afternoon.

In a videotaped confession shown at her trial for aggravated DUI, Rousso told police she “must have passed out” behind the wheel. And she hysterically sobbed to an officer, “You’ve got to get me out of here . . . I did this,” according to court testimony.

Before her trial started Tuesday, Rousso pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the crash that killed 5-year-old Jaclyn Santos, and injured the girl’s mother and two brothers in downtown Highland Park.

But her attorney, Douglas Zeit, has repeatedly been rebuked in his efforts to get a plea deal that would allow Rousso to avoid the more stringent DUI charge. Zeit argued inhalants are not considered an intoxicant under state law.

Evidence that prosecutors presented Tuesday may indicate why they were not open to a plea deal.

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

In a chaotic 911 tape, witnesses can be heard screaming at the driver to stop.

The 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, her car had come to rest against a building, and she asked in a slurry drawl: “What happened?” Adam Poncher said.

Highland Park Police Officer Anton Galati was the first cop on the scene that afternoon. Rousso approached him while sobbing hysterically, he testified Tuesday.

Then she pleaded with him to take her away, he said.

“You’ve got to get me out of here,” Galati said Rousso told him. Referring to the accident, Galati testified that Rousso said: “I did this.”

He placed her in the back of his patrol car and she passed out, Galati said.

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

Rousso, who has been free on bail since her family posted a $500,000 bond, faces three to 14 years in prison if found guilty on the DUI charge.

A settlement was reached in a civil case the Santos family filed against Rousso, but details of the agreement have not been released to the public.

Her trial resumes Thursday.

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