DeKALB – A St. Charles man is facing multiple charges after a four-car crash Tuesday that killed a DeKalb High School student and left many in the local educational community in mourning.
Johnathon R. Ode, 18, was in his senior year at DeKalb, where both his father and stepmother work. DeKalb School District 428 Board President Victoria Newport called Ode’s death “a tragic loss to the District 428 school family and the DeKalb, Malta and Cortland communities.”
“We send our deepest condolences to the Ode family,” she said. “District 428 Student Services personnel have been available all day today to support our students as well as our staff, and they will continue to be available to students and staff as necessary. Additionally, a therapy dog was in the high school today to help comfort our students and staff.”
Ode previously lived in Sandwich and attended Sandwich High School. His father, Stephen Ode, is a science teacher at DeKalb High School, and his stepmother, Katie Ode, also works there.
Prosecutors have charged John A. Yanni III, 25, of the 100 block of South 18th Street in St. Charles, with aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide in connection with the crash. If convicted of the most serious charge, aggravated DUI causing death, he could face three to seven years in prison.
The crash occurred about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday on Route 38 east of Peace Road, according to a news release from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. Police said Yanni was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado pickup west on Route 38 when his vehicle crossed the highway’s center line.
Yanni’s truck first hit a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup driven by River J. Rich, 19, of Cortland, then collided head-on with Ode’s vehicle, a 2000 Ford Taurus, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said.
After the collision, a 2002 Hyundai Elantra driven by Scott McAdams, 36, of DeKalb, rear-ended Yanni’s truck, police said.
A judge approved a warrant for Yanni’s arrest Wednesday afternoon, according to court documents, but he remained at Kishwaukee Hospital late Wednesday afternoon. Hospital officials would not provide information about his condition.
Evan Cortez, 23, of Elgin, was a passenger in Ode’s vehicle. He was taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford with serious injuries. Both Ode and Cortez were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, police said. Cortez remained at St. Anthony’s on Wednesday evening.
River and McAdams were treated for minor injuries, police said.
Katie Bryant, Rich's mother, said her son was driving east on Route 38 when he saw another truck coming toward him. He was able to pull over to avoid a more serious accident.
Bryant said her son’s vehicle was clipped on the driver’s side. He then called 911 when he looked back and saw more vehicles were involved in the crash, Bryant said.
“I feel very sorry for the family of the gentleman who lost his life,” she said. “I was lucky enough to fold my child’s clothes this morning knowing he’s OK.”
At DeKalb High School, Johnathon Ode was a member of the Gamers Guild and the Outdoor Adventure Club. He is survived by parents Stephen and Katie Ode; two brothers, Gerald Becker of Sandwich and Louis Ode of DeKalb; grandparents, Richard and Marlene Becker of Sandwich, and Robert and Patricia Collins of Aurora; stepgrandparents, Harlan and Jean Hawkins of Cortland; and his aunts, uncles and cousins.
His mother, Marsha, died in 2008.
A memorial service is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Anderson Funeral Home, 2011 S. Fourth St., DeKalb. Steve Saunders of Millbrook United Methodist Church will officiate. Visitation will be from 11 a.m. Saturday until the time of the memorial service.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorials can be made to the Johnathon R. Ode Memorial Fund, addressed to the Ode family in care of Anderson Funeral Home, P.O. Box 605, 2011 S. Fourth St., DeKalb, IL 60115.
• News Editor Brett Rowland and staff writer Stephanie Markham contributed to this report.