Melanie A. Hass, 37, of Mundelein, (inset left) was charged Friday with fleeing the scene after hitting Maureen Wener, 49, of Deerfield, (inset right) with her car and killing her on June 2, 2023, near Deerfield Road and Piccadilly Road in Highland Park. | Insets: Provided; Background Photo: Max Weingardt

A judge released a woman who was charged with fatally striking a Deerfield school board member with her car and fleeing in Highland Park after prosecutors did not request her to be held.

Melanie A. Hass, 37, of Mundelein, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal crash, a Class 1 felony.

The Highland Park Police Department and Highland Park Fire Department responded at 12:37 p.m. on June 2 to a call of an injured bicyclist at Deerfield Road and Piccadilly Road.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Ben Dillon said during a detention hearing Friday afternoon that first responders found Maureen Wener, 49, of Deerfield, lying in the eastbound curb lane of Deerfield Road with her bicycle nearby.

Wener had suffered serious injuries and her bicycle frame was broken in half.

Several bystanders stopped to aid the victim but none of them witnessed what happened, Dillon said.

Wener was transported to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville by ambulance and she was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

The Lake County Major Crash Assistance Team (MCAT) and the Highland Park Police Department began investigating.

Surveillance video was obtained showing Wener riding her bicycle westbound on the sidewalk along eastbound Deerfield Road, Dillon said.

Maureen Wener, 49, of Deerfield, died on June 2, 2023, after she was struck by a vehicle while riding her bicycle near Deerfield Road and Piccadilly Road in Highland Park. | Photo: Max Weingardt

An autopsy showed Wener died from her numerous injuries that were the result of a bicycle and vehicle crash, Dillon said.

Wener was the secretary of the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 Board of Education.

Over eight hours after the incident, Hass went to the Highland Park Police Department and talked with investigators, Dillon said.

She told investigators she was driving around on her lunch break in her 2020 Jeep Wrangler.

Hass had just left the BP gas station and traveled westbound on Deerfield Road before realizing she needed to go eastbound on Deerfield Road.

Dillon said Hass told investigators she turned left onto Piccadilly Road and then did a three-point turn before proceeding to the stop sign.

She said she looked both ways multiple times and saw it was clear to proceed before driving onto Deerfield Road, at which time she bumped her tire off the curb, Dillon said.

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Investigators learned from Hass’ co-worker that Hass had been vomiting in the bathroom and then left early from work. She never returned to work.

A crime lab forensics scientist confirmed marks left on Wener’s bicycle were made from Hass’ Jeep, Dillon said.

GPS data showed Hass did not actually come to a complete stop at the stop sign at Deerfield Road and Piccadilly Road, Dillon said.

The data also showed Hass then rapidly accelerated to 56 mph in a 30 mph zone as she fled the scene.

The charge against Hass was announced by police Friday morning. Officers transported her to the Lake County Courthouse for an initial court hearing.

Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Emma Smoler informed Lake County Judge Raymond Collins during an initial Friday morning hearing that the charge itself against Hass is non-detainable under the Illinois SAFE-T Act’s Pretrial Fairness provision.

The prosecutor and the judge appeared taken aback by the fact that someone who commits a fatal hit-and-run cannot be held in jail under the state’s new law.

In an unusual move, Collins ordered Hass temporarily detained pending a detention hearing after finding she was a flight risk.

He scheduled a detention hearing for Friday afternoon to determine whether she will remain held in custody pending trial.

While the charge itself is non-detainable, prosecutors still have the option to file a petition to detain a defendant if they believe they are a willful flight risk.

During the Friday afternoon detention hearing, Dillon told Lake County Judge Theodore Potkonjak that the state’s attorney’s office would not be filing a petition to detain.

“Your office doesn’t feel that it’s — the fact pattern you just gave me, that it doesn’t bear out at least filing a petition to detain?” Potkonjak said.

Dillon said the state’s attorney’s office took into consideration state law and the fact pattern of the case, including Hass surrendering to law enforcement.

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The judge and prosecutor went back and forth with each other as the judge continued to question the state’s attorney’s office’s position on the matter.

“It’s a detainable offense, your office is just choosing not to file a petition. Let’s make that part clear,” Potkonjak said. Dillon responded by saying he was not arguing it was a non-detainable offense.

After the Friday morning ruling, defense attorneys had filed a motion seeking Hass’ release but the issue became moot after prosecutors had not filed a petition to detain Hass by the Friday afternoon hearing, which led to Potkonjak saying that prosecutors were doing Hass’ defense attorneys’ job for them.

The Major Crash Assistance Team of Lake County investigates a fatal crash involving a bicyclist and a vehicle at Deerfield Road and Piccadilly Road in Highland Park on June 2, 2023. | Photo: Max Weingardt

The judge asked both sides to argue what pre-trial release conditions he should impose on Hass since he could not order her held in jail pending trial as a petition to detain was not filed.

Dillon asked the court to impose Level 1 pre-trial services — the lowest level — and for Hass to not drive without a valid license. He also asked for a curfew and for Hass to have no contact with the victim’s family.

The defense attorneys representing Hass said they were in agreement with the conditions of release.

Potkonjak ordered Hass to be placed on Level 4 pre-trial services — the highest level — and imposed a curfew on her. He also ordered Hass to not drive without a valid license and not to consume drugs or alcohol.

Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that his office has been working with the Lake County Major Crash Assistance Team since the incident occurred. The state’s attorney’s office has also been in contact with the victim’s family and their attorneys.

“In all cases, this office will not bring charges unless we are convinced that we can prove the defendant committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That means, in these types of cases, we often need to reconstruct the crash scene. Law enforcement experts, with MCAT, have been working on this diligently on this forensic analysis,” Rinehart said.

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The state’s attorney said the analysis was complete after Thanksgiving, at which time they made their charging decision.

Rinehart said the assistant state’s attorneys handling the case did not file a detention petition because Hass was cooperative after the initial crime and there was no evidence she was a flight risk.

“A defendant can be very cooperative with an investigation and also guilty. Here, the defendant, who has no prior criminal history, will be closely monitored with conditions. The family and their lawyers were informed of this decision,” Rinehart said.

“Overall, our office takes these cases incredibly seriously, and we have sought jail or prison in similar cases. Even if Judges have not always agreed with our requests, we believe jail or prison can be necessary to tell the public that they must report accidents to police immediately,” he added.

Last week, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Hass by Lewis Law Firm in Lake Forest on behalf of the woman’s husband, Paul Rundell.

The suit said Hass was driving too fast for conditions, not paying attention to the roadway while distracted and did not keep a proper lookout for vehicles and pedestrians while making a U-turn.

Attorney Brian Lewis told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that Wener’s family has been through a tragedy.

The attorney last week publicly called on the police department to charge Hass.

The attorney said Wener’s death left a “very big, empty seat” at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner table.

“We hope the Lake County State’s Attorney will move forward against the defendant right away so Maureen’s family can get the justice, and closure, they deserve,” Lewis said.

Hass is scheduled to appear in court again on January 18 for a preliminary hearing.