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Man Pleads Guilty To DUI In Crash That Killed Girlfriend

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Angus Lake, 42, has pleaded guilty to drunk driving in an April 2011 crash that killed his girlfriend, 25-year-old Michelle Eustis, at Balmoral Park Racetrack. (Credit: Will County Sheriff's Office)

Angus Lake, 42, has pleaded guilty to drunk driving in an April 2011 crash that killed his girlfriend, 25-year-old Michelle Eustis, at Balmoral Park Racetrack. (Credit: Will County Sheriff’s Office)

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JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) – A Michigan man pleaded guilty to drunk driving on Monday in a crash that killed his girlfriend at Balmoral Park Racetrack last April.

Angus Lake, 42, was set to go on trial on Monday, but pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI just 10 minutes before the jury trial was to begin, according to Will County prosecutors. He was charged in the crash that killed Eustis, a 25-year-old horse trainer from Crete, and injured 21-year-old Heather France of Three Rivers, Mich.

Will County Judge Richard Schoenstedt scheduled sentencing for March 15. Lake faces up to 14 years in prison.

Prosecutors have said Lake was engaged to Michelle Eustis, the 25-year-old trainer killed in the accident. But her father, Chuck Eustis III, has strongly denied that, saying Lake and Angus had only been dating a few weeks. He said after Monday’s hearing he can’t get his daughter’s death out of his mind.

Michelle Eustis

Michelle Eustis, 25, was killed in by an alleged drunk driver while riding a horse at Balmoral Park Racetrack on April 11, 2011. Police said her fiancé was the driver. (Credit: CBS)

“I think about this every day of the week,” Chuck Eustis III said. “I go see my daughter at her grave site every day of the week.”

He said his 7-year-old granddaughter, Hayley, is doing all right despite losing her mother, but things are “totally different.” He suspects they’ll stay that way at least until Lake is sentenced.

Lake’s plea apparently came as a surprise, as France said prosecutors flew her to Chicago from West Palm Beach, Fla., anticipating a trial. The more she thought about it, though, the more she said it made sense.

“How can you not plead guilty to something that’s clearly your fault?” France said.

Lake’s blood-alcohol level after the accident was 0.147, prosecutors said, nearly twice the legal limit. They’ve also said Lake was engaged to Eustis, but her father has said that’s not true. He said they were only dating a few weeks and that his daughter would not get engaged without telling him.

Lake’s public defender declined to speak to a reporter after Monday’s hearing.

Lake had “five or six shots” before he went looking for France and Eustis at the Crete racetrack April 11, prosecutors said. The women left a gathering in a barn to ride a horse named Rendezvous. Lake’s truck came upon them on Backstretch Road shortly after 5 a.m.

“We should probably get off to the side more,” France said she told Eustis when Lake’s white Dodge Ram appeared behind them, “because I don’t know if he can see us.”

Lake hit the brakes hard, prosecutors said, and his truck started to spin. He hit the horse and left a gouge in its back.

Both women were thrown from the animal, and Eustis suffered head trauma and died. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office ruled her death an accident.

France, meanwhile, broke her shoulder, leg and ankle. Nearly two months after the accident, she told Sun-Times Media she’d lost days of her memory and could barely walk.

France said Monday she’s walking again, and she wears a brace to work a new job in Florida.

(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)

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