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The County of DuPage
Wheaton, Illinois

Press Release

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bond Set at $750,000 For Man Accused of Killing Downers Grove Student with Car

DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin and Downers Grove Chief of Police Shanon Gillette announced today that bond has been set for a Naperville man accused of striking seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Dunlap with his car causing her death. Joseph Kucharski, 51 (d.o.b. 8/9/1967) with a last known address in Naperville appeared at a bond hearing this morning where Judge Liam Brennan set bond in the amount of $750,000 with 10% to apply. On February 22, 2019, Judge Robert Miller issued a $5 million arrest warrant for Kucharski following the crash.  

  On February 19, 2019, at approximately 10:55 A.M. the Downers Grove Police Department responded to a report of a person, later identified as Downers Grove North student Elizabeth Dunlap, struck by a vehicle in the intersection of Main and Grant Streets. An investigation into the incident revealed that Dunlap was crossing Main St. within the marked crosswalk, in conjunction with the “Walk” signal, when she was struck by a vehicle traveling southbound on Main Street. It is alleged that the vehicle crossed into the oncoming lanes and entered the intersection at Grant Street on a red light It is alleged that Kucharski was the driver of the vehicle. It is alleged that at the time of the crash, Kucharski had a blood alcohol content of 0.031 and exhibited signs of impairment when interviewed by police. It is further alleged that through the course of their investigation, authorities found two crack pipes, crack cocaine and other drugs at a hotel room in which Kucharski was staying. Elizabeth Dunlap suffered life-threatening injuries and was pronounced dead from her injuries on Friday, February 22. 

  “First and foremost, I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to Beth’s family and friends,” Berlin said. “They have suffered a devastating loss that no amount of time can heal. Their unimaginable heartbreak is shared by the staff and students at Downers Grove North High School as well as the entire community. The loss of such a wonderful young woman, who was full of life, will have a profound lasting effect on the lives of countless DuPage County residents. I would like to thank the Downers Grove Police Department as well as the Felony Investigative Assistance Team for their work in this tragic case. It is because of their efforts Mr. Kucharski will face the full force and effect of the law. I would also like to thank Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Johnston for her work in securing charges against Mr. Kucharski for the death of Beth Dunlap.”

  “The Village of Downers Grove wishes to extend our sincerest condolences to the Dunlap family, to Beth’s fellow students, and to the staff at Downers Grove North High School,” Gillette said. “I would like to thank the first responders, investigators, and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s office for their tireless efforts on behalf of the victim, her family, and the Downers Grove community.”

  Kucharski’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 15, 2019, for arraignment in front of Judge Brennan.

  Kucharski has been charged with one count of Felony Aggravated DUI-Alcohol/Drugs Causing Death and one count of Felony Reckless Homicide. He is eligible for up to three to fourteen years in the Illinois Department of Corrections if found guilty.

 Members of the public are reminded that this complaint contains only charges and is not proof of the defendant’s guilt.  A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial in which it is the government’s burden to prove his or her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.