Sheriff’s officer charged in Niles crash that killed 2 sisters
Ludwika Moskal and Helena Lukasik, Polish immigrants who worked together at Northwestern University, were months from retiring.
A Cook County sheriff’s police officer has been charged with reckless homicide, accused of broadsiding a car carrying two sisters who were on their way home from a night-shift cleaning crew at Northwestern University last September in Niles and were just months from retiring.
Officer Thomas M. Nortman, 48, was charged Tuesday with reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving in the crash early Sept. 6 at Dempster Street and Harlem Avenue, according to the Niles police.
Nortman, who turned himself in Monday night, was driving his squad car east on Dempster just before 6 a.m. that day and struck the passenger side of the two sisters’ Honda Accord, which was turning left off Dempster onto southbound Harlem, police said.
The driver, 69-year-old Ludwika Moskal of Norridge, and passenger, her 64-year-old sister, Helena Lukasik of Belmont Heights on the Northwest Side, were killed.
Shortly after the crash, family members said the women were coming home after a night shift on a cleaning crew at Northwestern and that they usually drove to and from work together.
“They were full of energy and looking forward to their retirement, which was to come in just a few months,” Ludwika Moskal’s son Robert Moskal said then.
He said his mother and aunt grew up in Poland. His mother came to the United States in the 1980s, ultimately settling in Norridge, where she raised him and his sister.
He said Helena Lukasik, his aunt, had three children and five grandchildren. She had taught kindergarten in Poland “and loved playing with her grandchildren and teaching them songs and poems,” according to her family.
Nortman, who lives in Homewood, was on duty, headed to work at the Skokie courthouse, where he appeared before a judge Tuesday and later was released on $200,000 bail, according to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
Witnesses told investigators Nortman had been making erratic lane changes to get around other vehicles while heading north on the Tri-State Tollway and then east on Dempster, roads that were slick from rainfall.
He was in the far right lane of Dempster, approaching Harlem, when he sped past a semi-truck that was in the center lane at 78 to 79 miles an hour and hit the Honda as it turned, prosecutors said.
The impact caused the Honda to spin and sideswipe the driver’s door of Nortman’s squad car with its rear, passenger-side corner.
Video recorded on Nortman’s bodycam, which he turned on after getting out of the squad car, showed his emergency lights and siren weren’t activated at the time, according to court documents.
Nortman makes $96,726.24 a year working for the sheriff’s office, according to spokeswoman Sophia Ansari, who says he was hired as a correctional officer at the Cook County Jail on June 10, 1996, and promoted to a sheriff’s police officer on Oct. 4, 2015.
On the morning of the crash, Nortman was on his way to a roll call at the Cook County regional courthouse on Old Orchard Road, which serves as a base of operations for sheriff’s police officers. On a typical day, he would have gone on patrol after roll call.
Sheriff’s spokesman Matt Walberg says Nortman was de-deputized and placed on desk duty following the crash and that an internal investigation is ongoing.
As a condition of hisbail, Nortman was ordered not to carry a gun, drive or have any contact with the victims’ family or witnesses, the state’s attorney’s office said.