Naperville man pleads not guilty to DUI, homicide charges in death of Downers Grove North student Beth Dunlap

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- A Naperville man pleaded not guilty to drunk driving charges after allegedly running a red light and killing a student in front of Downers Grove North High School in February.

Joseph Kucharski, 51, was charged with one count of aggravated DUI - Death and one count of reckless homicide. He faces three to 14 years in prison if convicted.

His attorney spoke on his behalf Friday at the DuPage County courthouse.

Police said 17-year-old Beth Dunlap was legally crossing in a marked crosswalk just steps from her high school when she was struck. Kucharski allegedly crossed into the oncoming lanes and entered the intersection at Grant Street on a red light, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors say Kucharski was coming off a four-day cocaine high at the time.

Dunlap was rushed to a hospital in critical condition and taken off life support, after which she died.

Dunlap was a "fierce competitor and a strong person," Principal Janice Schwarze told the student body.

"As hard as this loss is for all of us, I believe that she would want us to be strong and take care of each other," she said.

Dunlap was a junior at the high school and a well-known volleyball player throughout the region. Her club team just returned from a three-day tournament in St. Louis the weekend before she was killed.

"Beth will always be a part of this team," said Kate McGuire, Dunlap's club coach. "We will hear her voice when we celebrate our wins and we will see her smile when we make big defensive plays. Her courage and fight over the last week is a true representation of the Beth's competitiveness. "

"Beth was sassy, fun, spunky, feisty, and a fierce competitor. She hated to lose," said Julie Heatherly, Dunlap's former coach. "Beth was a setter that led her team with phenomenal defense, a tough serve and sweet, soft setter hands."
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