A judge sentenced a Round Lake Beach man to 17 years in prison after he was convicted of driving drunk and crashing head-on into another car, killing two women near Grayslake in 2019.
Victor H. Ortiz, 54, of the 1400 block of Kildeer Drive in Round Lake Beach, was charged with four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol causing death.
Ortiz was the driver of a Ford E-350 van that crashed head-on into two vehicles on June 8, 2019.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said the crash happened around 9:05 p.m. on Fairfield Road north of Route 60 in Fremont Township.
Ortiz was traveling southbound on Fairfield Road north of Route 60 when he crossed the double yellow line and went into the northbound lanes.
His van struck the driver’s side of a northbound Honda Odyssey, driven by a 42-year-old Hainesville man.
Ortiz’s vehicle also struck a northbound Kia Forte head-on.
Barbara Gaulke, 56, of Ingleside, was driving the Kia and Sandra Forscht, 64, of Round Lake, was in the front passenger seat.
Gaulke sustained major injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. Forscht also sustained major injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ortiz and the driver of the Honda were transported to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville with non-life-threatening injuries.
Ortiz had not been charged in the fatal crash until weeks later because toxicology results were pending.
In that timeframe, Ortiz was arrested in an unrelated driving under the influence case in Kildeer and released from custody on a personal recognizance bond.
Once investigators obtained blood and urine results for Ortiz, they showed he was driving under the influence of alcohol during the time of the fatal crash.
After receiving the results, investigators received a tip that Ortiz was trying to flee the country to Guatemala and authorities secured an arrest warrant for him.
Police received information that Ortiz boarded a charter bus, which was traveling to Texas and eventually to Guatemala.
Chicago Police Department tactical officers determined Ortiz was a passenger on a Turimex Bus that departed Chicago.
Police officers located the bus in the area of Interstate 57 and 111th Street in Chicago. Police conducted a traffic stop on the bus and took Ortiz into custody.
Ortiz was extradited back to Lake County following his arrest and held on a $1 million bond.
A jury trial in the case took place in August and lasted three days.
Jurors heard from different state witnesses, including law enforcement and medical experts, who explained how the collision occurred and the physical state of Ortiz at the time of the incident.
Ortiz testified on the last day of the trial and denied having any alcohol the day of the crash.
Medical expert witnesses testified that Ortiz’s blood alcohol concentration level was almost three times the legal limit of 0.08.
Ortiz also denied ever crossing over into the opposite lanes. The jury found him guilty on all charges.
Lake County Judge George Strickland revoked Ortiz’s ability to post bond following the verdict.
A sentencing hearing began Tuesday afternoon.
Prosecutors read a victim impact statement from a relative of one of the victims.
The statement expressed the overwhelming sadness the victim’s family has felt since the tragic accident.
The family described a “hole in their hearts that will never be filled.”
Prosecutors argued that Ortiz’s behavior was extremely dangerous and reckless.
Prosecutors also said that Ortiz lacked remorse and showed a disregard for human life when he drove drunk again less than three weeks after he killed the two victims.
Strickland, before sentencing Ortiz, emphasized how the man had never taken any responsibility or accountability for his actions.
Strickland said that he did not find Ortiz’s trial testimony to be credible.
Ortiz faced a sentencing range of six to 28 years in prison. Strickland sentenced him to 17 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The sentence will be served at 85% in accordance with truth-in-sentencing guidelines.
“We hope that the jury’s verdict and the Court’s sentence has brought some measure of justice to the family after this 2019 tragedy that claimed two lives,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said after the hearing.
“We are satisfied that this lengthy sentence protects the community for years to come and tells the public that these types of cases will be handled seriously by our office and by the Courts. I want to thank the Sheriff’s Office for their effective investigation and our trial prosecutors who got the job done in the courtroom this summer,” Rinehart said.