DUI, sex charges filed after fatal bus wreck in Streeterville
By KIM JANSSEN AND RUMMANA HUSSAIN Staff Reporters May 5, 2011 9:38AM
�Tour bus driver David Soto (right) was sentenced for the deadly bus crash that killed Justyna Palka (left) as she was walking blocks from her Streeterville home in May 2011.
Updated: August 28, 2011 12:21AM
The tour bus driver who police say struck and killed a woman walking in Streeterville on Tuesday night was charged with aggravated DUI — as well as sex charges involving children after police learned that he was wanted in two cases.
David Soto, 47, of the Northwest Side, was accused of being under the influence when he struck Justyna Palka, 26, as she crossed the street in the 500 block of North Columbus. He tested positive for cocaine, according to court documents.
Cook County Judge Israel Desierto ordered Soto held without bond at a hearing Thursday. Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Morgan Creppel said Soto, who worked for Pontarelli Group Charter, twice told paramedics that he didn’t see Palka and was only trying to take a right turn. Palka had taken four to five steps into the crosswalk on Columbus at East Illinois when she was struck at 6:52 p.m., blocks from her home, Creppel said.
Tour bus company officials did not respond to requests for comment. But court records show he was ticketed roughly 20 times for traffic violations between 1988 and 2008.
After Soto’s arrest, authorities found that he was wanted in two sexual-assault cases involving minor girls, prosecutors said in court Thursday. He now also faces charges of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under 13, authorities said Thursday.
Soto fondled an 8-year-old girl who went to sleep over at his house with a friend and the friend’s mother on Dec. 28, 2008, Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Muldoon said. Soto is related to the friend’s mother by marriage.
When the girl told her friend’s mother about what had occurred, the woman took both children from the home that night, Muldoon said. That’s when the woman’s daughter allegedly told her mother that Soto had “also touched” her.
The abuse against the other girl took place between June 2006 and June 2008 when she was 6 or 7 at Soto’s old residence, also in Chicago, Muldoon said. She said the girl never spoke out because she was “afraid to tell anyone.”
Soto was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 1993 for an aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction involving a 6-year-old relative who was at his house in the 1900 block of North Kenneth for a birthday party and sleepover on May 30, 1992.
Soto took the girl from her bed while she slept, molested her and put her back down, according to court records.
He also received a four-year prison sentence in 1982 for attempted rape and aggravated battery.
Soto is separated from his wife and has four children, assistant public defender Kathleen Moriarty said.
He had been working for the bus company for six months, Moriarty said.
The charges against Soto and allegations about his past are “shocking,” said Bob Bruno, Palka’s step-cousin. “It’s scary to know that someone like that is in charge of a large, dangerous vehicle — not just for pedestrians but for any passengers.”
Palka’s family members are traveling to Chicago and will likely hold a service here before burying the Polish native in Germany, where she lived until 2005 before moving to Chicago, relatives said.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire