Police report disputes accounts of fatal DUI accident

July 16, 2010

Michael Langford died May 2nd in Steger.

Minutes earlier, Chicago Heights police had arrested his mother for driving without a valid license.

The report is from an officer in Steger who responded to the crash that killed 5-year-old Michael Langford. Cecil Conner was driving the car after Chicago Heights police arrested his girlfriend and gave him the keys, apparently unaware that Conner was drunk.

However, the Steger officer writes in a report that Conner's girlfriend told Chicago Heights police Conner was OK to drive.

The red Chevy Cavalier that Cecil Conner was driving crashed through a fence and into a tree in Steger, killing five-year-old Michael Langford, who was in a car seat in the back, about a half hour after an officer in nearby Chicago Heights arrested Conner's girlfriend Kathie LaFond for failing to have a valid driver's license.

Police dispatch tapes from the scene suggest the Steger officer immediately recognized that Conner was drunk.

From the dispatch tapes:

Officer: A little tidbit, the driver was not the biological father of the deceased kid. It was mom's boyfriend. Now we found out the Heights had this car pulled over half hour before our accident.
Dispatcher: Oh yeah, we already knew that.
Officer: He talked to the officer and the officer said Oh yeah, I didn't detect any alcohol.
Dispatcher: Yeah.
Officer: And right now his limit is, he's gonna be at least twice if not triple the limit.

Prosecutors say Conner later tested at .208, nearly three times the legal limit. Accident reconstruction experts believe Conner drove the car at least 65 miles an hour in a 35 mile an hour zone before crashing, but Steger police say in their report when they stopped the car earlier, Kathie LaFond was driving, and that she told the officer to let Conner drive and she did not tell the officer Conner had been drinking.

LaFond says otherwise.

"I told them that my son was sleeping in the backseat and that I wanted to take my baby home," said LaFond.

LaFond's attorney, Mark Horowitz, said it makes no difference.

"She doesn't have the authority to tell police go ahead and let my drunk boyfriend drive home," said Horowitz. "I know she didn't do that."

Horwitz says he believes Chicago Heights police had a responsibility to impound the car once they arrested Kathie LaFond. If they had, he says the five-year-old child would still be alive.

Steger and Chicago Heights police did not respond to requests for comment.

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