Trial to begin today in 2011 crash that killed 2
SYCAMORE – The families of Tim Getzelman and Alexis Weber try to honor the memories of the 21-year-olds who died in a car crash almost three years ago in positive ways.
On the first anniversary, they hosted a blood drive. Last year, they encouraged friends and community members to do something nice for someone else through a Random Act of Kindness day.
They plan to repeat the Random Act of Kindness Day – T-shirts for the event were sold to benefit Casey's Safe Haven in Elburn, a rescue for dogs and horses – but first they have to sit through the first part of a criminal trial for the 48-year-old Sycamore woman who was driving the pickup truck that collided with Getzelman's four-door sedan.
"This is really going to be incredibly painful and difficult for both our families as well as for friends and community," Tamara Getzelman, Tim's mother, said in a written statement. "It has been a long process that has now taken us to a trial … finally … it will be now three years on Feb. 21."
Patricia Schmidt, of the 28500 block of Brickville Road, will stand trial before DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert on charges of reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving. She asked that Stuckert, rather than jurors, decide her fate. Schmidt has been free since posting $50,000 bail April 6, 2011.
The trial, originally expected to start Monday, was pushed back to today because weather concerns closed the DeKalb County Courthouse on Monday. The trial will pick up again March 3 through 5.
About 5:30 p.m. Feb. 21, 2011, Schmidt was driving south on North Main Street in Sycamore when she collided with Getzelman's vehicle, which was traveling east on Peace Road.
Schmidt's attorney, Gregg Smith, did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment, but Assistant State's Attorney Phil Montgomery said Schmidt had a pre-existing seizure condition.
Prosecutors have said evidence suggests that Schmidt suffered a seizure or blackout in the crash and that they plan to argue that her medications were never at an appropriate level to drive. Stuckert agreed with prosecutors Nov. 15 that Schmidt's medical condition wasn't an affirmative defense, meaning it did not relieve her of responsibility for her actions, if she did commit reckless homicide or aggravated reckless driving.
"It's our position she shouldn't have been driving a car as a result of her medical condition," Montgomery said.
If convicted of reckless homicide, the more serious charge, Schmidt could be sentenced to probation or up to 5 years in prison. She had been charged with aggravated driving under the influence, which is punishable by between 6 and 28 years in prison, but prosecutors dropped those charges Sept. 4 because they did not think they could prove them beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutors dropped the aggravated DUI charges because the prescription drugs found in Schmidt's blood did not exceed the prescribed doses, DeKalb County State's Attorney Richard Schmack said last week in a letter to the Daily Chronicle. Under his predecessor, former State's Attorney Clay Campbell, prosecutors "consulted three independent labs and found no qualified expert would testify that Schmidt was under the influence," Schmack wrote.
"To [pursue the DUI counts] would have totally undermined the state’s credibility in pursuing a conviction based on reckless conduct, rather than impairment," Schmack said.
Montgomery said the state will call witnesses of the crash, medical personnel and police officers to testify during the trial.
Meanwhile, Getzelman's and Weber's families aren't the only ones who remember the couple. Getzelman was seven months away from earning his associate degree to become a firefighter, and Weber, a Kaneland graduate, who wanted to become a teacher, supported Feed 'Em Soup, a nonprofit organization that has a children's section called Lexi's Corner in her honor.
They were outstanding citizens who each wanted a career dedicated to giving back, said Sycamore Assistant Fire Chief Marc Doty, who knew both victims.
"That was their dream," Doty said. "That says a lot about those two. Not everybody is willing to do that."
Getzelman, a Sycamore graduate, was hired as an intern to the Sycamore Fire Department on Sept. 15, 2008, and had a license for basic EMT. A memorial site was dedicated to the couple July 15, 2012, at Sycamore Fire Station No. 2, 2100 Frantum Road, Sycamore.
"His dream was to go help somebody," Doty said. "And his dream was to obtain a full-time position as a firefighter."