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Guilty plea in DUI crash that killed Sycamore boy

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 1:11 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 10:57 p.m. CDT
Benjamin Black

ST. CHARLES – A 29-year-old Sycamore man who had heroin in his system during a crash that killed a Sycamore resident and severely injured another pleaded guilty Thursday.

Benjamin Black, of the 1500 block of Sparkhayes Drive, faces between three and 14 years in prison when Kane County Circuit Judge James Hallock sentences him March 20. Probation would be an option only if Hallock found extraordinary circumstances existed.

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the case was a "terrible reminder of the inherent danger of heroin use."

"Some might view a heroin habit as the self-centered destruction of the user," McMahon said in a news release. "But this case is much more than that. The case is a gut-wrenching tragedy."

Black pleaded guilty to two of the six counts of aggravated driving under the influence against him. Prosecutors dropped the rest of the charges against him, but the plea agreement did not affect the maximum penalty Black faces.

Black remains in Kane County Jail unable to post 10 percent of his $250,000 bond.

Black was driving a Ford Expedition on Route 64 in Kane County about 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 when he smashed into the back of a Chevrolet Cavalier carrying three people, authorities said.

Matthew Ranken, an 11-year-old Sycamore boy riding in the back seat of the Cavalier, died that night, while Teale Noble, a 19-year-old Sycamore woman riding in the front passenger seat, was severely injured. Ranken's older brother, Nicholas Weber, was driving the Cavalier, which had stopped for traffic backed up on Route 64 in western Kane County due to another crash more than a mile away.

The aggravated DUI charges were filed against Black in May, after results of a urine test showed heroin metabolites were in his system at the time of the crash. The result indicated that Black had recently used heroin, although he might not have been high on the drug at the time.

While Kane County authorities were waiting for test results, Black was accused of stealing more than $4,000 of coiled copper and brass March 11 in Cortland. The felony theft case is next up in DeKalb County Circuit Court on Nov. 27.

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