Jaclyn was with her 25-year-old mother and her 4-year-old and 2-year-old brothers, all of whom were also injured when a car jumped the curb on the north side of the 700 block of Central Avenue and plowed into them, according to a news release issued by the Highland Park Police Department.
Five-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was taken to Evanston Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 5 p.m.
The car that hit and caused Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento's death was driven by 18-year old Carly Rousso of Highland Park.
There is no denying that this situation is a tragedy for all concerned and that the lives of all involved have been altered. In the wake of this tragedy emotions have run extremely high as to how it was handled and how blame and responsibility should be determined and what punishments meted out.
Here's how Ken LaRue, the Lake County State's Attorney's Traffic Division chief, envisions what happened on Central Avenue on Labor Day:
Eighteen-year-old Carly Rousso was driving a Lexus coupe eastbound in Highland Park. Either before she started driving or once she was underway, she grabbed the canister of dusting spray she'd brought along, put it to her nose, pushed down the nozzle and inhaled. She was instantly filled with a euphoric sensation brought on by a chemical compound in the spray called difluoroethane. Commonly referred to as "huffing," inhaling this compound and others like it causes asphyxiation that users get high from. "At some point," LaRue said, "she passed out." She didn't stop the car as it drifted, first across the lanes going in the opposite the direction. Then, towards the sidewalk by Sunset Foods, where Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was walking with her mother and siblings.
Rousso has subsequently been charged with one count of reckless homicide and four counts of aggravated driving under the influence of an intoxicating compound.
From the standpoint of legal action there are at least two problems with determining guilt and handing out punishment in this case. The first is that unless there is an unimpeachable eye witness or other evidence as to how the difluoroethane entered Rousso's blood, the act of huffing on her part while driving is only speculation. The second problem is Carly Rousso has a significant history of mental health troubles and diagnosis dating back years. In fact she was under the treatment of mental health professionals at the time of Jaclyn's tragic death.
Carly Rousso's lawyers are free to argue that Carly was using the the canister of dusting spray for it's intended purposes and simply inhaled the substance within that use. Furthermore they can argue that the PTSD Carly suffered from (or medications used to treat it or the dusting compound itself or even the interaction of the two) caused her to lapse into an altered state of consciousness during which she was unable to control the vehicle.
(720 ILCS 5/6-3)
(from Ch. 38, par. 6-3)
Intoxicated or drugged condition.
A person who is in an intoxicated or drugged condition is criminally responsible for conduct unless such condition is involuntarily produced and deprives him of substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.
(Source: P.A. 92-466, eff. 1-1-02.)
While many will no doubt not want to hear about such issues, the fact remains that the case is far from clear cut and there are several mental health issues (involving substance abuse or dependence and PTSD) that will affect the ultimate criminal outcome here.