WOODSTOCK – Speaking through sobs, Karre Gitzinger described her daughter as beautiful, happy, caring. A girl with a heart of gold.
Alysha Thurow-Gitzinger was 19 years old, attending culinary school in Chicago and set for a mission trip to Haiti when a drunken-driving collision cut all that short.
Hugo C. Dells III, 43, of Darien, Wis., was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for the crash that killed the Woodstock woman. A plea deal was accepted by McHenry County Judge Gordon Graham.
Dells was charged after the Oct. 16, 2012, crash with multiple counts of aggravated driving under the influence and other traffic offenses. Dells pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, a Class 2 felony. The charge carried a special sentencing range of three to 14 years in prison.
Dells must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or six years.
“Nothing will ever be enough, but I’m glad he’s got to serve 85 percent of [the sentence],” Gitzinger said outside the courtroom. “There is no justice for this.”
Wearing a necklace with a picture of a smiling Thurow-Gitzinger around her neck, Gitzinger said Dells was “irresponsible” and “reckless.” She was surrounded by family and supporters, many of whom openly wept in court.
“Accidents are mistakes ... this was no mistake,” Gitzinger said through a trembling voice as she read aloud her statement. “You chose to get into your car.”
Authorities said Dells was driving north on Division Street in Harvard about 1 a.m. Oct. 16 when he swerved into the southbound lane and Thurow-Gitzinger’s vehicle. The crash also sent three women – two passengers of his car and one in Thurow-Gitzinger’s – to the hospital.
It was not the first time the family had been wracked by drunken driving, Gitzinger said. Thirty years ago, Thurow-Gitzinger’s grandmother was hit by a drunken driver and suffered injuries that left her disabled and homebound.
Additional traffic offenses were dismissed as part of the negotiated plea. Dells had no previous DUI or alcohol-related arrests.