The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

September 23, 2008

Driver in fatal crash enters plea

Two died in crash in May 2007

DANVILLE — The woman accused in the traffic accident that killed two people in 2007 pleaded guilty on Monday.

Valerie Simpson, 42, of Georgetown appeared Monday morning in Vermilion County Circuit Court and entered her plea on one charge of aggravated DUI as part of an agreement with the state’s attorney’s office. A second charge of aggravated DUI against Simpson was dismissed.

She was accused in the May 4, 2007, traffic accident along Illinois Route 1 that resulted in the death of two people.

Simpson was driving along Illinois Route 1 when her Dodge Caravan crossed the center line and collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by Robert Downing, 44, of Westville. Two passengers — Patty Downing, 44, of Westville, and Charles Morton Jr., 71, of Danville — both died as a result of the accident.

According to court testimony, Simpson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.176 percent at the time of the crash, more than double the legal limit in Illinois.

Morton died at the scene, while Patty Downing died a day later at the hospital.

The aggravated DUI charge against Simpson is a Class 2 felony, usually punishable by up to seven years in the Illinois De-partment of Corrections.

However, Simpson’s charge carries with it special penalty provisions, doubling the potential maximum sentence to 14 years in prison.

A sentencing hearing for Simpson is scheduled for Nov. 5 before Judge Nancy Fahey.

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