Tapes released in DUI crash that killed boy

June 30, 2010 11:41:30 AM PDT
Police dispatch tapes were released Tuesday in the DUI crash that killed a 5-year-old boy in Steger back in May.

According to the attorney for the boy's mother, on the tapes, a Chicago Heights officer and a police dispatcher are heard discussing a traffic stop in which the officer gave car keys to a passenger in the car he pulled over. That passenger was then involved in a crash that killed the child.

Cecil Conner is charged with aggravated DUI and reckless homicide in the crash. But the boy's mother, Kathy LaFond, is suing Chicago Heights police, saying Conner never should have been behind the wheel in the first place.

LaFond's attorney says the officer merely asked Cecil Conner for his name and date of birth from the other side of the car before turning over the keys to him, never questioning his sobriety. Conner remains in jail on $500,000 bond. LaFond's attorney says he obtained the tapes showing the officer's reaction when he learns the child in the car was killed a short time later.

On May 5, 5-year-old Michael Langford was strapped into a car seat in the back of his mother's car when police say her boyfriend Cecil Conner crashed, killing him.

Investigators say Conner tested three times over the legal limit after the crash.

About 40 minutes earlier, a Chicago Heights officer left the car and the child with Connor after he arrested Kathy LaFond for driving without a valid license.

DISPATCHER: "When you arrested Lafond, was Cecil in that vehicle with her?"
OFFICER: "Cecil showed up later on. No."
DISPATCHER: "He showed up later on?"
OFFICER: "Yeah. Why?"
DISPATCHER: "Cuz, you know that accident from Steger?"
OFFICER: "Yeah."
DISPATCHER: "Was there a kid in that car when you stopped it?"
OFFICER: "Yes there was."
DISPATCHER: "Well that child is dead."
OFFICER: "Are you serious?"
DISPATCHER: "No I don't know. I don't play about stuff like that.
OFFICER: "Oh my God."

According to LaFond's attorney, the tapes later show the officer told a different story about the traffic stop.

OFFICER: "He was all right when I turned it over to him."
DISPATCHER: "Ah, but he was in the vehicle or he showed up on the scene after you stopped the car?"
OFFICER: "No. No, he was in the vehicle. He was in the vehicle."
DISPATCHER: "He was in the vehicle?"
OFFICER: "He was in the passenger side. He had a valid driver's license. He thought she did."

Kathy LaFond says she told the officer about Cecil Conner and was worried about her baby.

"I told him he, Cecil, was drinking," LaFond said in a May interview with ABC 7.

DISPATCHER: "Ok, he was in the passenger side."
OFFICER: "Yes, and the kid was secured safely in the child seat."
DISPATCHER: "OK, well that baby is deceased."
OFFICER: "Oh my God."

LaFond's attorney says the officer had numerous options other than arresting LaFond, separating her from her son.

"It was the last thing he should have done, let a stranger or somebody not related to the child take a 5-year-old home at 2:47 in the morning," said Mark Horwitz, attorney.

Now, LaFond says the officer should serve time behind bars.

"He's supposed to protect and serve, not what you did. And he took an innocent life away. And now I'm not going to be able to have my baby. That was my only. It's going to be hard and everyday its harder and harder," said LaFond.

Calls to the Chicago Heights Police Department were not returned Tuesday. In a statement released shortly after the accident they say there was no visible evidence that Conner was impaired that would justify precluding his use of the vehicle.

Kathy LaFond's attorney claims otherwise. He says the officer never even mentioned the child in the back seat. He has filed a civil suit against the police department.


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