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Bus Driver In Fatal Accident Charged With Sex Abuse

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David Soto

David Soto is charged with hitting and killing a woman while driving a coach bus in Streeterville, and seperately with child sex abuse. (Credit: Chicago Police)

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Updated 05/05/11 – 5:12 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – A Criminal Court judge has denied bail to a man accused of sex crimes against two children, and is accused of accused of running down a woman Tuesday night at a busy Streeterville intersection.

Prosecutors said 47-year-old David Soto had cocaine in his system when he ran down 23-year-old graphic artist Justyna Palka , and he was charged with driving under the influence.

But, as WBBM Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts reports, Soto was denied bail by Judge Israel Desierto because of unrelated sex charges, involving two pre-teen girls.

Cook County State’s Attorney’s office spokeswoman Tamara Simonton said that police had issued an “investigative alert” for Soto more than two years ago. Police News Affairs Cmdr. Maureen Biggane confirmed that Soto had been the subject of an investigation since January 2009.

Prosecutors said during the bond hearing that while running a check on his name Tuesday, police found that he was wanted for two sex offenses.

He allegedly sexually molested an 8-year-old girl on Dec. 28, 2008, while she was visiting his house with another girl of the same age who is related to Soto by marriage, Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Muldoon said at the bond hearing.

Prosecutors told Judge Desierto that both girls told their mothers, who in turn went promptly to police.

The girl also said Soto had molested her for a two-year period between 2006 and 2008 when she was 6 and 7, Muldoon said.

“This type of investigation is very sensitive, and the investigative process is very detailed,” Biggane said. “Critical investigative steps requiring specially-trained detectives must be taken to establish probably cause before an arrest can be made.”

Biggane said Soto disappeared by that time, and said detectives believed he had left the country.

“Efforts continued to locate this individual, with assistance being provided by additional units,” she said.

The Illinois Secretary of State’s office had no problems finding Soto.

His commercial driver’s license was suspended on Aug. 3, 2008, when he was cited for speeding and driving without insurance, according to the Secretary of State’s office. It was reinstated after he obtained high-risk insurance.

His license was valid at the time of the accident, at Columbus Drive and Illinois Street.

Prosecutors said Soto told emergency personnel that he did not believe he had run someone over initially. An eyewitness told police that the bus ran over Palka with both its front and rear wheels.

The coach bus that Soto was allegedly driving was making a turn from Illinois Street onto Columbus Drive around 7 p.m. Tuesday, when it hit Palka.

Soto told investigators he heard a bump, which he thought was a curb, but then stopped the bus, got out and discovered the woman after he heard a second bump, a source said.

He underwent routine drug and alcohol testing after the accident and tested positive for cocaine, according to prosecutors.

Palka, of the 400 block of North McClurg Court, moved to the United States from Germany six years ago. She was identified by her LinkedIn profile as a graphic designer/art director at Ogilvy & Mather who studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

She is a former art assistant at Chicago Magazine, a creative intern at Ogilvy & Mather and a graphic design assistant at Bockos Design, Inc., according to the profile.

Soto’s record includes two prison terms for sex offenses. Illinois Dept. of Corrections records indicate that he was first convicted of attempted rape and aggravated battery in 1982 and sentenced to four years in prison. He was convicted in 1993 of rape, was released from prison in 1997 and was on parole until 2000.

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Jesse White said White will ask the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to impose tougher standards on those seeking a CDL, which would include fingerprinting and a background check.  Currently, Illinois law requires that only for school bus drivers. U.S. DOT standards bar only those who have committed a felony with a motor vehicle.

Soto returns to Violence Court (Br. 66) for a preliminary hearing May 24.

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