CHICAGO (STMW) – An admittedly drunk driver took the witness stand in his own defense Friday, testifying how a Chicago Heights police officer ordered him behind the wheel before he crashed his girlfriend’s car, killing the 5-year-old boy he called his own.
Cecil Conner Jr., who faces two counts of aggravated driving under the influence, said officer Chris Felicetti gave him the mandate after his girlfriend and Michael Langford Jr.’s mother, Kathie LaFond, was arrested for driving on a suspended license.
In the early morning hours of May 10, LaFond, a designated driver, picked Conner up from a cousin’s house where Conner said he had been drinking Bud Lights while watching the NBA playoffs. LaFond’s son was sleeping in the back of the Chevrolet Cavalier minutes before the May 10 crash.
“I opened the passenger door. [Felicetti] put the keys in my hand. He told me to take Michael home and come back for Kathie,” Conner told Will County jurors, his blue striped suit jacket and collared shirt hiding the larger of his neck tattoos. “Then he ordered me to drive. He told me if I didn’t drive, I’d be arrested.”
The Steger man recalled thinking that night, “Everything’s blurry. I can’t really see. I’m scared”
Then Conner called the house he’d partied at to ask for help. He talked to Jennifer Tartt, his cousin’s fiancée, but the line went dead before he could figure out where he was.
The next thing he remembered was waking up. The Cavalier had slammed into one tree, richocheted into a cyclone fence and uprooted a pine tree.
“I was reaching in the back seat, screaming for help,” Conner said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Mills pounced on Conner during cross examination.
Why did he tell Steger police to “go get the bastard that did this?”
Why did he tell police some guy had cut him off? Where did he see the semi-truck he said caused him to swerve into the other lane?
“I don’t remember,” Conner repeated to her.
How did Conner manage to call his friend but not just pull over?
“You had a phone, correct?” she asked, raising her voice. “You had a brake pedal too?”
And did he ever go back to the Chicago Heights Police Station?
“I was supposed to go back there after I dropped Michael off,” Conner said. “I didn’t make it.”
Prosecutors’ brief rebuttal included testimony from a security supervisor at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights who refuted LaFond’s insistence she told Felicetti three times Conner was drunk and she was his ride home.
Kevin Kutta said he overheard LaFond talking to Michael’s godmother in the waiting room at the ER where Michael was pronounced dead.
“Look, I need to tell you something,” he said LaFond told the other woman when they were alone. “I was picked up by police and arrested. I told the officer, ‘Please, let Cecil drive my baby home. That’s how he got the keys, That’s how he got the car, that’s how he got the baby.’”
Kutta said he volunteered his story to police after seeing LaFond on the TV news insisting the opposite.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected Tuesday.