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People v. Bonzi





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. JOHN S. GHENT, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 19, 1978.

Following a jury trial defendant, Ronald J. Bonzi, was found guilty of reckless homicide and was sentenced to two years' probation. He appeals.

The charge stemmed from the collision of two automobiles, a brown Cutlass driven by Roger Williams and containing members of his family, and a green Le Mans driven by defendant; Shella Boyle, Clifford Wilson and Marsha Peterson were passengers in defendant's car. Marsha died as a result of the collision; the passengers and drivers in both cars sustained injuries.

The collision occurred in the early evening hours of July 18, 1976, on Spring Creek Road, in Winnebago County. Spring Creek Road is a two-lane highway; the particular stretch of road involved follows a pattern of two curves of approximately ninety degrees each, separated by an expanse of straight road. On the date of the collision the speed limit was 45 m.p.h.; a warning sign located near the curve in the road indicated 40 m.p.h. and a "Pass With Care" sign was located nearby. The weather at the time of the collision was warm and clear, and the road was dry.

According to Williams, he was proceeding west on Spring Creek Road; he had negotiated the first curve and was at a point midway between the two curves when he observed defendant's car coming out of the second curve, approximately a block and a half away. Williams estimated the speed of defendant's car at more than 70 m.p.h. Seeing defendant's car begin to slide on the road, Williams pulled his car to the right. The defendant's car slid down the road at a 45-degree angle, and its right front struck the left front of Williams' car.

Ross Caldwell, a former police officer for the City of Rockford, lived in a house located near the straightaway between the two curves on Spring Creek Road. At the time of the collision, he was outdoors on his patio and heard the sound of tires squealing. He then observed the Williams' car pull off to the side of the road. The tire sounds continued; Caldwell saw dust flying in the curve and observed defendant's car coming by at a rate of speed he estimated in excess of 40 m.p.h., fishtailing and then hitting the Williams' car.

Illinois State Trooper, Stephen Crow, was on routine patrol in the vicinity when he came upon the accident scene. Crow observed tire marks directly behind defendant's car, which he measured to be 331 feet 9 inches in length; the first 261 feet 9 inches were scuff marks and the final 70 feet were skid marks. He was unable, however, to estimate the speed of defendant's car.

Crow approached defendant's car and spoke to the defendant; defendant complained of head injuries and was not able to walk on his own. Crow assisted in removing defendant from the car and later placing him in the ambulance. He observed vomit on the front seat of the defendant's car and on defendant. Afterwards, Crow observed defendant at the hospital; according to Crow defendant's eyes appeared dilated and bloodshot; his speech was rather thick-tongued and he smelled of alcohol. In Crow's opinion defendant was intoxicated. Another Illinois State Trooper, Patrick Young, upon arriving on the scene, observed defendant sitting on the grass off the roadway; defendant had a bandage placed around his head, the front of his shirt was covered with what appeared to be vomit, and there was a very strong odor of alcoholic beverages about him. As defendant could not stand on his own, Young also assisted him into the ambulance with Officer Crow. In Young's opinion defendant was under the influence of alcoholic beverages.

Harold Hendrickson, a detective with the Illinois State Police, had occasion to speak to defendant at the hospital after the accident. According to Hendrickson, both of defendant's eyes were dilated, and he had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath; defendant's speech appeared "mute." Hendrickson was of the opinion that defendant appeared to be intoxicated.

At the time of the collision defendant and his passengers were returning from an outing at the Verdi Club in Rockford. All had consumed a quantity of beer with the exception of Clifford Wilson who was a diabetic; defendant had consumed approximately four 16 ounce glasses of beer. Clifford and Shella Doyle were seated in the back seat of defendant's car with Marsha Peterson seated next to defendant in the front seat.

Shella testified that Marsha started grabbing at the steering wheel of defendant's car, asking to steer; defendant kept pushing her away telling her not to grab the wheel. Right before the curve, Marsha got a loose grip on the steering wheel, saying that she wanted to steer around the curve. The next thing Shella remembered she was standing outside of the car about 10 feet away. In her opinion, defendant did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol. On cross-examination she stated that at the time of the accident she was looking down at the floor of the car; she did not recall telling the police that defendant was going fast when he went into the curve.

Clifford Wilson also testified that half way through the first curve Marsha grabbed the steering wheel; at that point he felt a sudden jerk and the rear wheel of the car went off into the gravel. He remembered no skidding of the car prior to that time. On cross-examination he did not remember telling the police that he told defendant to slow down, or that he had stated that defendant was "a little under the influence of alcohol."

• 1, 2 Defendant's first contention on appeal is that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A person commits reckless homicide if he kills a person while driving a motor vehicle and the acts which caused death are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual and are performed recklessly. (People v. Griffith (1978), 56 Ill. App.3d 747, 372 N.E.2d 404.) A person acts recklessly in this regard when he consciously disregards a substantial and an unjustifiable risk that his acts are such as are likely to cause death or great bodily harm to some individual and where such disregard constitutes a ...

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