Skokie woman ‘was happy’ days before fatal crash with U.S. Capitol rioter, now charged with her murder

Lauren Wegner, 35, died Nov. 8 after Shane Jason Woods drove his truck opposite traffic downstate on I-55, striking her and another driver, police say.

SHARE Skokie woman ‘was happy’ days before fatal crash with U.S. Capitol rioter, now charged with her murder
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Bill and Evelyn Wegner described their daughter Lauren (in photo) as a “ray of sunshine” who could “light up a room walking in.”

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Time

Lauren Wegner sat down on the couch a few Sundays ago, dressed in a Green Bay Packers jersey, hat and socks, and she told her parents that she was “so happy” she’d come home to Skokie.

The 35-year-old who had once attended Niles West High School and loved animals — and the Packers — told her parents she was in “such a good place right now.” Then, to her father who had urged her to come home from North Carolina, she also said, “Thanks, Dad.”

“Boy, that meant so much to me,” Bill Wegner said Wednesday. “That she was happy.”

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Lauren Wegner

Provided

A few days later, Lauren Wegner left to visit friends in St. Louis. But her parents, Bill and Evelyn, said they never got the usual text message from their daughter assuring them that she had arrived safely. Instead, they heard from the Illinois State Police, who told them Lauren had been killed in a crash downstate on Interstate 55, which occurred just after 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Now, a Sangamon County grand jury has charged Shane Jason Woods, 44, of Auburn with Wegner’s first-degree murder. Court records filed by Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright allege that Woods drove northbound into the southbound lanes of the interstate with the intention of running into a semitruck, and that he made suicidal comments to a police officer.

Bill Wegner described his daughter as “a ray of sunshine” who “could light up a room walking in.” She’s also survived by a brother, Christopher. She played volleyball in high school and more recently worked as a bartender at Morrison Roadhouse in Niles. Her father said he always called her his “bestest gurl.”

In a phone call with the Chicago Sun-Times, Bill Wegner acknowledged that the murder charge filed against Woods “takes a little load off your mind.”

But in the background, Evelyn Wegner could also be heard saying, “We were crying tears of joy.”

The crash that killed Lauren Wegner also seriously injured two others. Afterward, Woods’ blood-alcohol content was measured at 0.177%, or more than twice the legal limit, records show. Woods is also charged with aggravated driving under the influence and aggravated fleeing.

Woods is one of 33 known Illinois residents charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. He pleaded guilty in September to committing assault on the U.S. Capitol grounds and assaulting and resisting a federal officer. He admitted then that he rammed into an officer who had already been sprayed by a chemical irritant, and that he knocked a cameraman to the ground with a “blindside shoulder-tackle.”

His sentencing in federal court, which had been set for Jan. 13, has now been postponed. Police speculated in one report detailing the I-55 crash that Woods’ sentencing might be “a possible motivation for the suicide attempt.” Prosecutors in Washington, D.C., had not previously tried to keep him behind bars but sought his detention Wednesday.

However, Woods is now in the Sangamon County Jail. He’s been there since Friday, following his release from Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, records show. Though he has been held in lieu of $2 million bail, Wright filed a petition Wednesday to deny him bail completely. The prosecutor said Woods “poses a real and present threat to the physical safety of himself and all persons he may encounter.”

The crash that killed Wegner followed a traffic stop, records show. Divernon Police Chief Jason Martin previously told the Sun-Times that Woods had been pulled over by one of his officers after his truck had been seen speeding north on I-55. Martin said Woods got off the interstate at mile marker 88.

Records made public Wednesday show the Divernon officer smelled alcohol on Woods and that Woods made suicidal comments during the stop.

The officer then returned to his car but soon approached Woods again. That’s when Martin said Woods took off, even though the officer was “pleading with him not to leave the scene.”

Woods allegedly then drove north into the southbound lanes of I-55, crashing into Wegner’s Mercury Sable and a Toyota Corolla driven by a 61-year-old man from Granite City. The Corolla’s passenger was a 54-year-old woman, also from Granite City.

One of those surviving victims suffered a broken spine, brain bleeding and a concussion, according to Woods’ indictment. Another suffered broken bones and severe bruising.

Dwight Crawley, the defense attorney who represents Woods in federal court, would not comment this week and could not be reached Wednesday.

Bill Wegner said his daughter declined to join her parents for a recent trip to Kenosha, telling them she’d join them next time. Then, when it came time to visit her friends in St. Louis, he said he urged her to make the drive the next morning, tempting her with a trip to Maggiano’s Little Italy and a movie. She promised they’d do it when she came back, he said.

“So I gave her a hug,” Bill Wegner said. “Gave her a smooch. Told her I loved her, and I waved goodbye to her.

“And that was the last time I saw her.”

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