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Depner makes first appearance on DUI

Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013 5:36 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 9:07 a.m. CDT

WOODSTOCK – Walter Depner made his first court appearance Thursday on new DUI charges nearly 14 years after he was behind the wheel in a drunken crash that killed a woman and her three children.

Depner, 61, of Mount Prospect, is accused of driving Feb. 24 while under the influence of the drug Klonopin. Prosecutors have said the drug was not prescribed to him. He also did not have a valid driver’s license because it had been revoked, police said.

On Wednesday, Depner posted $6,000 bail – but he won’t be released from custody because the Illinois Department of Corrections issued a warrant for him, corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said.

Depner is still on parole after being released from prison in June 2011. He hadn’t yet been sent back to corrections and remained at the McHenry County Jail on Thursday.

Depner served more than a decade in prison for the August 1999 crash that killed Eva Burleson and her three children – Daniel, 13; Tiffany, 11; and Dallis, 7. Husband and father Thomas Burleson was the only survivor.

In the gallery of the courtroom Thursday was Margaret Skrzypkowski, a victim advocate for the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, commonly referred to as AAIM.

“We promised the family we’d be following the case,” she said.

Skrzypkowski’s 15-year-old daughter, Monika, was killed in 2008 after being struck by a drunk–driver while she was crossing the street with a group of friends. Kevin Schuh, who was 17 years old at the time, was sentenced to five years in prison and is scheduled to be paroled in April 2014.

Skrzypkowski said she met Thomas Burleson at a grief group after her daughter died. He was asked to come and tell victims’ families his story and to show that there is life beyond loss. Skrzypkowski said Burleson was particularly helpful for her husband, talking man-to-man.

“Although it’s very different and very difficult, you are able to somehow find the strength to go on,” she said.

Skrzypkowski said she plans to attend Depner’s future court dates if she is able, or another AAIM representative will come in her place.

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