Vigil held for girl, 9, killed by alleged drunk driver

AURORA, Ill. (WLS) -- Small lights flickered in the dark parking lot of Westmont Junior High School Sunday night for the vigil of a nine-year-old girl killed by an alleged drunk driver in southwest suburban Aurora.

Around 9 p.m. Friday night Katie Jonak was heading home from the Spotlight Youth Theater in Aurora with her 40-year-old mother and two friends, ages 10 and 12, when police said a drunk driver veered into their lane, hitting the family minivan where she was sitting.

Jonak was transported to Presence Mercy Medical Center, where she later died. The two other girls were transported with non-life threatening injuries. Jonak's mother refused treatment.

The alleged DUI driver fled the scene and was taken into custody without incident near the High Street Bridge that crosses the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks, police said. The man was showing signs of intoxication and police said charges are pending.

"The thought of it happening to one of my could have been anybody's kid," said Melanie Sleeper, who attended the vigil with her daughter.

Aurora residents tied blue ribbons around every lamppost and tree in the community before gathering at the vigil. Most of the quiet crowd had never met Jonak, a budding young actress so alive on stage she seems to jump out of pictures.

"Katie was so full of life, just such a happy person," said Kevin Cary, the superintendent of Westmont Junior High School.

Her father, John Jonak, is the principal at Westmont Junior High School. Students gathered at the school to show support for their principal.

"Mr. Jonak has done so much for us he's been there when we needed him and when we didn't need him so just kind of good to be here for him and his family," said student Kayla Sleeper.

A family friend released a statement on Saturday:

"Katie was a beautiful child, inside and out. She was absolutely riveting to watch on stage. Her sweet, gentle smile radiated the kindness in her heart. We grieve with her family and will miss her terribly."

Students said when they return to school on Tuesday they will be wearing red to start their drunk driving awareness campaign.
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