Reckless homicide charges in fatal 2016 car crash in Cragin

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Noel Mendoza | Sun-Times

A 22-year-old man was charged with reckless homicide and driving under the influence more than a year after Cook County prosecutors said he crashed his speeding Honda Civic onto oncoming traffic in a wreck that killed his teenager passenger.

Noel Mendoza was behind the wheel the night of Sept. 14, 2016, driving north “at a high rate of speed” in the 3000 block of North Cicero Avenue, near Barry, when he lost control and fishtailed into oncoming tragic, Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Coelho said Wednesday at a bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

The car swerved into an oncoming Chevy Tahoe, injuring the driver of that vehicle and crushing 17-year-old Deborah Morales, who was in the passenger seat of Mendoza’s Civic.

Police in 2016 said that the Civic had struck the Tahoe after attempting a U-turn in the intersection in the Cragin neighborhood.

Morales died at Illinois Masonic from injures she suffered in the crash. Mendoza also was in critical condition after the wreck, police said at the time. The 45-year-old driver of the Tahoe was in critical condition but recovered after months of physical therapy, Coelho said.

Mendoza’s blood and urine tested positive for methamphetamine, fentanyl and THC, the intoxicating compound in marijuana, Coelho said.

Morales, who appeared in court wearing a purple Minnesota Vikings coat, was arrested on Tuesday.

Prosecutors had waited months for the results of drug tests on the driver of the Tahoe, and engineering studies on the Civic to determine whether a mechanical malfunction could have caused Mendoza to lose control, Coelho said.

Judge Mary C. Marubio ordered Mendoza held in lieu of $7,500 bail.

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