Driver Convicted DUI Crash That Killed 5-Year-Old
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JOLIET, Ill. (STMW) – A Will County jury has found Cecil Conner Jr. guilty of aggravated driving under the influence in the high-speed crash that led to the death of his girlfriend’s 5-year-old son last spring.
The jury, which began its deliberations Tuesday morning, convicted Conner on both counts of aggravated driving under the influence Tuesday night. He’s facing three to 14 years in prison.
Conner maintained a Chicago Heights police officer ordered him to drive after arresting his girlfriend and designated driver, Kathie LaFond, for driving with a suspended license.
Her son, Michael Langford Jr. was asleep in the back seat at the time of the crash.
The boy died after Conner slammed their Chevrolet Cavalier into a tree, ricocheted into a cyclone fence and uprooted a pine tree at Carpenter Street and Steger Road. Conner’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
Conner maintained Chicago Heights officer Chris Felicetti ordered him to drive the car.
Conner’s attorney, Jeff Tomczak, during closing arguments insisted the case was one of “entrapment and necessity,” arguing Conner only got behind the wheel because Felicetti ordered him to drive and threatened to arrest Conner if he failed to comply. LaFond testified she told Felicetti three times that Conner was drunk, and she was his designated driver.
“Remember, it was his son, too,” Tomczak said, a reference to LaFond, Conner and Michael living in the same house in Steger.
“If there’s a mistake in this case, it wasn’t Cecil Conner’s. Don’t hold him accountable for what that police officer did.”
Prosecutors maintained, however, that only one person killed the boy: Conner.
Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Mills told jurors LaFond and Conner made several inconsistent statements, which casts doubt on their version of events. She reminded the jury of testimony from a security supervisor at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights, who rebutted LaFond’s insistence she told Felicetti that 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 emergency room where Michael was pronounced dead and admitted to the woman that she pleaded with the officer to let Cecil drive the boy home.
Kutta testified he overheard LaFond telling Michael’s godmother: “’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.’”
Mills also reminded jurors that Conner never pulled over or stopped the car after Felicetti allowed him to drive away.