A man, who fled to Poland and evaded arrest for 25 years, was found guilty during a trial Thursday for killing a man while driving drunk in 1995 in Lake Forest.
The Lake Forest Police Department said that Marek Josko, who was 42 years old at the time, was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of Route 41 just north of Deerpath Road on December 9, 1995.
Josko crashed head-on into a vehicle. The impact of the crash caused a third vehicle, driven by Dennis Bourassa, to become involved in the crash, according to Lake Forest Deputy Police Chief Rob Copeland.
Bourassa suffered serious head injuries and died as a result. Josko admitted to police that he was the driver of his vehicle and that he had been driving from Waukegan to Chicago.
The man admitted to drinking alcohol earlier that night and officers smelled an odor of alcohol on his breath, Copeland said. Officers reported Josko appeared disoriented and demonstrated signs of alcohol impairment.
He was transported to Lake Forest Hospital and staff took a blood sample from him. The blood sample was tested and revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.19, which was over the legal limit of 0.10 in 1995.
Josko was initially charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and released after posting bail. Police continued to investigate the cause of the crash to determine if Josko’s actions led to the death of Bourassa, Copeland previously said.
A Lake County judge signed a warrant on December 18, 1995, for the arrest of Josko on charges of reckless homicide.
Josko fled prosecution by boarding a plane from Chicago to Warsaw, Poland the day after the arrest warrant had been issued, Copeland said.
“Josko has never been apprehended pursuant to this Warrant, nor has he appeared voluntarily in any court to be arraigned until now. Police were unable to locate Josko in Poland and the case became a cold case until 2013,” Copeland said in June 2020.
Then-Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, who was going through closed cold cases, contacted Lake Forest Police Detective Mark Senger in 2014 and requested him to follow up on the Josko case.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office asked for federal agencies to assist the Lake Forest Police Department in locating and extraditing Josko to the United States for trial.
“The US Embassy in Poland and the FBI vigilantly worked for several years to locate Josko in Poland in order to arrest him and have him extradited back to the US to stand trial,” Copeland said.
Josko was located and arrested in February 2020 by Municipal Police in Przemysl, Poland and held pending an extradition hearing in Poland.
Josko’s extradition was held up due to COVID-19 until June 25, 2020, when the U.S. Marshals Service took custody of him.
A trial began on Monday for Josko and came to an end on Thursday. The jury deliberated for two and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict.
“The family and the Lake Forest Police Department have waited a quarter of a century for justice in Dennis Bourassa’s death. We are pleased with the jury’s work and its verdict in this case,” Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Hoffert said.
“After all these years without justice, I hope the family of the victim can now rest easy knowing that this ordeal is finally coming to a close,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
Rinehart commended the work of his prosecutors, Lauren Kalcheim Rothenberg and Scott Hoffert, as well as Victim Witness Coordinator Melba Rivera, State’s Attorney Investigator Wayne Brooks and Assistant State’s Attorney George Pappas.
“The age of the case brought many challenges, but everyone was up to the task,” Rinehart said.
Rinehart also acknowledged the work done on the case by Nerheim, who is now a Lake County judge, and Ari Fisz, who also worked in the state’s attorney’s office and is now a judge.
Reckless homicide is a special class 2 felony because Josko was under the influence of alcohol. It carries a sentencing range of 3-14 years in prison.
A status hearing has been scheduled for October 12. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled yet.