Crime & Courts

Jury finds Spring Grove man guilty of aggravated DUI in fatal 2016 crash

Ryan Heineman, 36, of the 38200 block of Spring Grove
Ryan Heineman, 36, of the 38200 block of Spring Grove

Jurors on Monday found a 36-year-old Spring Grove man guilty of driving under the influence during a June 26, 2016, crash that killed a Spring Grove-area woman.

The jury began its deliberation at 11:25 a.m. and returned to the courtroom about 3:30 p.m. with guilty verdicts for Ryan Heineman on two counts of aggravated driving under the influence.

Heineman could be sentenced to as many as 14 years in prison for driving under the influence the morning 33-year-old Tanya McDonough was thrown from the vehicle he was driving and died. Heineman would be required to complete at least 85 percent of the prison term under truth in sentencing guidelines.

“It’s been a long three years,” said McDonough’s aunt, who also is named Tanya McDonough. “It was a good day – justice for Tanya and her daughter, Ila.”

The 33-year-old McDonough and Heineman, who were neighbors, had guests at their separate homes in celebration of McDonough’s 33rd birthday June 25, 2016. The party carried over into the early hours of the morning, which is when McDonough’s aunt, Michelle Moberg, said she received a confusing phone call.

Heineman allegedly told Moberg that he had been in a crash but he wasn’t sure where he was. Moberg could hear a woman screaming in the background of their conversation, she has said.

Defense attorney Martin Lascola said prosecutors could not prove that Heineman was driving that morning because a crash reconstruction never was performed and no witnesses saw Heineman driving immediately before the crash.

Prosecutors, however, pointed to seat belt-related injuries that hospital staff testified to seeing on Heineman’s body while they were treating him. The markings were consistent with the direction that a seat belt would stretch over someone in the driver’s seat, prosecutors said.

“If he was sitting on the passenger side of that vehicle, he wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said.

Heineman chose not to testify at trial. He previously told officers and hospital staff, however, that he couldn’t recall details about the crash and only remembered waking up in a ditch next to McDonough’s body.

“Ryan has complete memory loss of that accident,” Lascola said during closing arguments Monday.

Several people who attended McDonough’s birthday party that day testified that everyone, including Heineman, had been drinking late the night before and early into the morning.

A group of people left to search for McDonough when she reportedly left the party on foot after an argument with her fiancé.

Once they found her, Heineman allegedly drove her a short distance back to his home before witnesses said McDonough left again with Heineman only moments later.

Because no one saw Heineman in the driver’s seat of the vehicle when it took off the second time, Lascola claimed that it could have been McDonough or another partygoer driving Heineman’s Jeep.

Lascola’s suggestion did not align with what family and friends know about McDonough, however.

Several people testified that McDonough, who did not have a license, was “petrified” of driving and wouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.

A passing driver discovered the wreck about 6 a.m. and alerted authorities, who found Heineman in the woods near his vehicle.

Police later determined that Heineman crashed his vehicle into a tree on Route 12 east of Sunset Road while his blood-alcohol content was 0.150 percent.

He was taken to the hospital and treated for injuries that were not life-threatening. McDonough was pronounced dead at the scene.

Heineman has been placed on electronic home monitoring pending a sentencing hearing scheduled for April 5, Lascola said.

Lascola declined to comment further.

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