Former Richmond-Burton School District 157 dean to be tried on felony DUI charge in October

Patrick Elder
Patrick Elder

A McHenry County judge Friday chose not to quash the arrest of a former Richmond-Burton Community High School dean facing a felony drunken driving charge.

The former longtime Richmond-Burton High School District 157 employee, Patrick R. Elder, who this year resigned from his role, declined to comment after court Friday.

A Spring Grove police officer arrested Elder on July 15, 2017, after witnessing Elder’s vehicle cross the center line multiple times while driving east on Route 173 east of Clark Road, the officer testified in court

Elder, 47, previously was found guilty of driving under the influence in connection with incidents in 1991 and 1995 in McLean County. The former convictions elevated the most recent DUI accusation to a felony punishable by three to seven years in prison. Elder has pleaded not guilty to the most recent charge.

His attorney, Henry Sugden, filed a request in June seeking to overturn the arrest. Sugden said the arresting officer didn’t have reasonable ground to stop Elder’s vehicle or cause to arrest him for suspected drunken driving.

Sugden declined to comment after court Friday.

The arresting officer, David Holem, who now works for the Wonder Lake Police Department, testified Friday to smelling “an extreme” odor of alcohol on Elder the night of his arrest.

Holem said Elder also failed a roadside sobriety test and refused a breath test that would have determined his blood-alcohol content.

In a video of the traffic stop, which was shown in court Friday, Elder could be heard telling the officer he consumed two or three beers and seemed to have trouble finding his proof of insurance.

“It appeared that he had a little problem,” Holem said in reference to Elder’s confused demeanor during the stop.

At first, Elder claimed he couldn’t step out of his vehicle because of an ankle injury.

He eventually exited to speak with the officer, however, and said that he couldn’t perform a roadside sobriety test, the video showed.

When Elder failed to follow the officer’s pen with his eyes and subsequently refused a breath test, Holem informed Elder he was being charged with driving under the influence.

Elder could be seen on the video holding out his hands and saying “hold on a second” in an apparent attempt to reason with the officer just before he was placed in handcuffs.

Based on the officer’s dashcam video, McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt ruled that the initial traffic stop was reasonable.

“The defendant looked like he crossed the fog line,” Wilbrandt said.

The judge also determined there was enough evidence to arrest Elder, who Wilbrandt said was swaying, slurring his words and appeared generally confused during the 2017 encounter.

Elder is scheduled for a final Oct. 1 court appearance before the case is expected to go to trial on Oct. 10.

“I want to set a trial date because this case is about 2½ years old,” Wilbrandt said.

Elder’s career with District 157 ended in June, when he officially resigned.

Before that, Elder had worked as the athletic director and football coach since the 2006-07 school year. In 2012, he earned $79,350, and in 2017, his base salary was $99,578, according to district documents. He entered the 2019-20 school year earning a base salary of $89,275.

In February 2018, the school board voted not to renew Elder’s contract but later named him the dean of students. The position included eligibility for vacation, sick time and health insurance.

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