PEORIA — A Dunlap woman faces up to 14 years in prison after being convicted Wednesday of being under the influence during a fatal car crash on the Murray Baker Bridge in mid-2017.
Stephanie L. Lawson, 25, whose last known address was 1522 W. Timberdale Drive, was convicted after a stipulated bench trial of aggravated DUI in connection with the July 23, 2017, crash that led to the death of Michelle Kline-Stringer, 53, of East Peoria. She faces at least three and possibly up to 14 years in prison when sentenced April 12 by Peoria County Circuit Judge Kevin Lyons. While similar to pleading guilty, not contesting the evidence is legally different and will allow Lawson to appeal her conviction.
She must serve at least 85 percent of any sentence imposed by Lyons. There is a chance she could get probation, but Lawson must show "extraordinary circumstances" as to why Lyons should not send her to prison. That's different from most crimes, as the burden is on Lawson to show why she should get probation.
Peoria police said officers were called about 5:20 a.m. July 23, 2017, about a stalled vehicle on the Murray Baker Bridge, which carries Interstate 74 over the Illinois River. While on their way to assist, they received a call about a two-vehicle crash on the bridge. The stalled vehicle was on the westbound side of the bridge when it was rear-ended by the second vehicle, police have said.
Kline-Stringer was pronounced dead at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center about three hours later, according to Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood.
The charges alleged Lawson had cocaine, marijuana and alcohol in her body at the time of the crash. One count stated she was under the combined influence of the three drugs “to a degree that rendered her incapable of driving safely.”
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.