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Report: Driver in Route 38 fatal crash was impaired by alcohol

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 7:01 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 7:13 a.m. CDT

CAMPTON HILLS – A Wisconsin woman who died in a Dec. 1 four-car crash, which also killed an 18-year-old Kaneland graduate, had a blood-alcohol level of .229 at the time, according to toxicology results released Friday. That is almost three times the legal limit of .08 percent.

Jennifer Liston, 30, of Madison also had cough syrup and other amounts of controlled substances in her blood, according to the report, made available from the Kane County Coroner’s office through the Freedom of Information Act.

On Dec. 1, Liston led police on a chase on Route 38 through Geneva to Campton Hills, at speeds ranging from 65 to 100 mph. She hit a car in Geneva, kept going, then drove into oncoming traffic, killing both herself and Zachary Bingham of Maple Park in a head-on crash, according to crash reports.

The coroner’s office said Liston died of blunt force trauma from severe chest and abdominal injuries. The autopsy report shows she had a fractured breastbone, broken legs and internal bleeding, all from the crash.

Campton Hills Police Chief Dan Hoffman said although Liston’s blood-alcohol content was not ruled the cause of death, alcohol was a major contributing factor in the crash, impairing both her ability to control the car and her judgment.

“Your actions are dictated by what is in your system,” Hoffman said. “In my experiences with people who are impaired, it affects how they can handle a vehicle and their decision-making ability when driving a vehicle.”

Hoffman said Liston met a man from Wheaton via Craigslist and came to his house, where they engaged in drinking and other activities. It was his car, a 2003 Nissan Altima, that Liston crashed, Hoffman said.

“He passes out, and she takes the car ... and drives like a maniac,” Hoffman said. “She left five kids in Wisconsin, and this 18-year-old kid gets killed and his girlfriend is in the car.”

According to crash reports, police chased Liston as she headed west on Route 38 from Wheaton at 65 mph, picking up speed as she crossed Randall Road at 100 mph.

After she crossed Randall, she continued speeding and started passing cars. When she drove into oncoming traffic, Liston hit Bingham head-on in the 42W700 block of Route 38, crash reports state.

Liston’s car rolled over, hitting two other vehicles before stopping, crash reports state.

Sugar Grove resident Nadia Kull, who was a passenger in one of the cars that was hit, said she was not surprised to learn that Liston was impaired that night.

“It was an absolute tragedy for that boy and his parents,” Kull said. “He was an only child.”

Kull’s husband, Kevin, was driving their Chevy Malibu when Liston hit them.

“It was like getting hit by a rocket,” Kull said. “She sent our car spinning, and then I was hit broadside by another car. It nailed me right into [the passenger] door. It’s amazing more people did not die.”

Kull said Bingham’s girlfriend and his other friends hosted a birthday party for him Friday, which would have been his 19th birthday.

“I feel sad for her [Liston], horrible for her children and devastated for all the other families affected by this,” Kull said. “In the end, she was a broken woman who deserves to be grieved for. ... It’s horrible what she did, but I still feel for her.”

Mitchell Miller, Liston’s stepfather, said the family did not have a comment about the toxicology report.

“Our heartfelt feelings go out to the fellow who died,” Miller said.

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