Woman charged with striking and killing bicyclist in West Loop, then driving away
The woman allegedly struck Paresh Chhatrala as he biked along Madison Street near Peoria on April 16. She had swerved to avoid a metal plate on the road and struck him head-on, police said.
A woman was chased down and detained by witnesses who allegedly saw her drive into the opposite lane of traffic last April on the Near West Side and slam into a bicyclist, killing him.
Courtney Bertucci, 30, faces multiple charges, including leaving the scene of an accident involving death, reckless homicide and possession of a controlled substance in the April 16 crash in the 900 block of West Madison Street.
Bertucci was initially charged only with possession of a controlled substance when officers found small packages of suspected heroin as they took her to a police station, Cook County prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
An investigation by the Chicago police Major Accidents Unit led to the additional charges. Bertucci was arrested Monday on a warrant issued when she failed to show up for a court hearing in the drug possession case, prosecutors said.
Judge Charles Beach noted her failure to appear in that case and set bail at $150,000 a hearing Tuesday, even though her private defense attorney said she could afford to post no more than a $5,000 bond.
A witness who was driving friends home from work was behind Bertucci’s silver Volkswagen Jetta when they saw her fail to stop at two stop signs and swerve into the opposite lane of traffic as they both headed east on Madison Street near Ashland Avenue, prosecutors said.
As Bertucci approached Peoria Avenue, she swerved into ongoing traffic again and struck Paresh Chhatrala head-on, prosecutors said.
Chhatrala was thrown into the air and struck Bertucci’s windshield, but she didn’t stop and dragged Chhatrala’s bike under her car as she drove away, prosecutors said.
The driver who had been following her saw others rush to the bicyclist’s aid, so they followed Bertucci and called police, prosecutors said. A delivery driver who also witnessed the crash likewise followed and called police.
When Bertucci pulled to a curb in the first block of South Aberdeen Street, the witnesses pulled alongside, preventing her from driving away. The delivery driver reached into her car and took her keys, prosecutors said.
Bertucci tried to walk away but the delivery driver and two others “gave chase and were able to apprehend” her and bring her back to her car until police arrived, prosecutors said.
Chhatrala suffered a severe head injury and was taken off life support three days later, prosecutors said. His death renewed activists’ calls for safety improvements along that stretch of Madison Street, where the city had removed a concrete median in 2019 to ease traffic congestion.
Prosecutors said she was previously convicted of a misdemeanor count of DUI in DuPage County and was sentenced to supervision in 2014.
An assistant public defender said Bertucci lives in Chicago with her mother and works for a cleaning company.
Her next court date was set for June 24.