Crime & Courts

Wonder Lake man who was driver in 1995 fatal crash sentenced on separate DUI convictions

Driver in 1995 fatal crash sentenced on new charge

Dennis R. Zidek, 41, of the 5200 block of East Lake Shore Drive, Wonder Lake
Dennis R. Zidek, 41, of the 5200 block of East Lake Shore Drive, Wonder Lake

A man convicted of killing his best friend in a 1995 drunken driving crash was sentenced to prison Monday on a separate charge of driving under the influence.

More than 21 years after Dennis R. Zidek crashed into a tree, killing 19-year-old Peterson L. Doud in 1995, police again arrested Zidek for allegedly getting behind the wheel while he was under the influence of alcohol.

Zidek, 41, pleaded guilty in November to a felony count of aggravated DUI. He was supposed to turn himself in Jan. 4, but the sentencing was delayed when Zidek showed up to court incapacitated, requiring paramedics to remove him from the building on a stretcher. His family told first responders that the man had consumed a combination of alcohol and prescription medication that morning.

The sentencing was pushed back to Monday morning, when officers handcuffed Zidek and took him to the McHenry County Jail.

Zidek, of the 5200 block of East Lake Shore Drive, Wonder Lake, is required to serve at least 50 percent of his two-year prison term and will receive credit for any time he already has spent in the county jail while the case was ongoing.

His attorney, Jeffrey Altman, declined to comment on the plea deal.

If the matter had gone to trial and Zidek were convicted, he would have faced between two and 10 years in prison based on his criminal history, prosecutors said.

Zidek’s sentencing comes nearly three years after Richmond police reported finding him “slumped forward” inside an SUV outside Papa Saverio’s on Feb. 29, 2016.

A Richmond officer was patrolling the area near 5600 Kenosha Street at 12:26 a.m. when he spotted a blue SUV with the engine running and the headlights on, according to a 2017 motion filed in McHenry County court. The vehicle was parked outside the Italian restaurant, which had closed for the day about
1½ hours earlier, the motion stated.

The officer approached the car and saw Zidek unresponsive in the driver’s seat with his foot on the brake. Thinking Zidek might need medical help, the deputy opened the unlocked driver’s side door and tried to check the man’s vital signs, prosecutors wrote in a May 2017 court filing.

Zidek awoke and told police he was coming from a friend’s house, where he claimed to have had one beer.

When police asked to see his driver’s license, Zidek handed an officer a package of gum from his pocket, prosecutors wrote in the 2017 motion.

After failing several roadside sobriety tests and declining to take a breath test, Richmond police arrested Zidek and charged him with driving under the influence, according to the May 2017 filing.

Defense attorneys argued in court last year that Zidek’s arrest was unjustified and that police had no reason to approach the man’s vehicle. The attorneys unsuccessfully fought to suppress evidence in the case, claiming that the officer’s “mere hunch of criminal activity” wasn’t enough to question the man.

After speaking with Zidek, however, police learned that his licensed was revoked in connection with a 1996 reckless homicide conviction.

Zidek was only 18 years old when he crashed a Pontiac Grand Prix into a tree near the intersection of Draper and Curran roads in McHenry. The crash killed Doud – a McHenry High School graduate and Zidek’s best friend at the time, according to a family member of one of the men. Doud had been home on Christmas break from college at Arizona State University.

Police testified that Zidek’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent – nearly twice the legal limit – when the vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into a tree just north of the intersection. Since Zidek was not yet 21, police also cited the teen with underage drinking.

The ticket was dismissed in April 1996, however, when Zidek accepted an offer from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and pleaded guilty to reckless homicide. He was sentenced to 4½ months of periodic imprisonment, 2½ years of probation, 240 hours of public service and six months of DUI school, public records show.

Zidek remained at the McHenry County Jail on Monday evening awaiting transportation to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

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