PEORIA — A Dunlap woman was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for driving 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, tearfully apologized to the family of Michelle Kline-Stringer, 53, of East Peoria, who died on July 23, 2017, when Lawson's vehicle collided with Kline-Stringer's, which had stalled on the bridge.
Lawson was convicted in February at a stipulated bench trial of aggravated DUI. She had faced up to 14 years behind bars. The three-year sentence was the minimum. 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 her sentence. There was a chance she could have gotten probation, but Peoria County Circuit Judge Kevin Lyons found there was no “extraordinary circumstance" why he should. That’s different from most crimes, as the burden was 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.
Lawson will get credit for about six months already served at the Peoria County Jail, as well as some additional time off if she completes a jobs partnership program, also at the jail.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.