Illinois state trooper pleads guilty, sentenced only to probation for fatal wreck

9:49 PM, Apr 16, 2010   |    comments
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  • Matt Mitchell
  • Jessica and Kelli Uhl

By Casey Nolen

KSDK -- An Illinois state trooper admitted responsibility Friday for causing a high-speed crash that claimed the lives of two sisters in November 2007.  And while he was sentenced to 30 months probation for his plea, Trooper Matt Mitchell will serve no jail time.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to two counts of reckless homicide and two more counts of aggravated reckless driving. This was his third accident as a state trooper. He will not be reinstated to the force.

Mitchell said in court he, "will forever regret beyond what anyone here knows," the crash on the day after Thanksgiving.

On November 23, 2007, Trooper Mitchell was responding to an accident call when he crossed the median on Interstate 64 and collided with another vehicle, killing 18-year-old Jessica Uhl and 13-year-old Kelli Uhl. Court documents revealed Mitchell was driving at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour prior to the accident.

Prosecutors said as far as they knew, no court has ever convicted a police officer of reckless homicide while on duty. With that in mind, they said jail time became a secondary priority for the survivors and the family of the victims in this crash who wanted to be sure a conviction would keep Mitchell from ever working as a police officer again.

"We are happy that Mr. Mitchell has accepted responsibility for his actions," said crash survivor Chris Marler.

The family of Jessica and Kelli Uhl wants Friday's sentence to reach beyond Matt Mitchell.

"We are hopeful that this conviction sends a message not only to all first responders and law enforcement officers but to all drivers," said Kim Schlau, the girls' mother.  "Please slow down, pay attention, put down the phone and drive safely."

A civil lawsuit against Mitchell is still pending.

Since the accident, Illinois State Police have issued new protocol, requiring troopers responding to emergency calls to check in with supervisors before driving more than 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

The Illinois State Police released the following statement after Mitchell's plea deal: "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of those who were victims in this tragic incident. Now that the criminal proceedings have concluded, the Illinois State Police will move forward with the internal administrative process as expeditiously as possible, and will take the appropriate action that is warranted."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.



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