Steinheimer trial to start next week

Abby Liefer and Hannah Porter

After unsuccessful last-minute legal wranglings by public defender Arlie Traughber, jury selection in Crystal Steinheimer’s aggravated DUI and reckless homicide trial is set to begin June 20 at the Monroe County Courthouse before Judge Dennis Doyle.

Steinheimer, 21, of Red Bud, faces charges resulting from a Jan. 10, 2015, crash on Route 159 south of Hecker that claimed the lives of two young Red Bud women.

According to an Illinois State Police report, Steinheimer’s Chevrolet Aveo crossed the center line and hit head-on a Chevy Cobalt driven by Abby Liefer. Liefer, 19, and her backseat passenger Hannah Porter, 20, were killed. Liefer’s front seat passenger, Grace Richards, sustained minor injuries.

Steinheimer, who was 20 at the time, had a blood alcohol content of .179 when she was airlifted to Saint Louis University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

Crystal Steinheimer (photo courtesy Monroe County Sheriff’s Department)

Traughber filed a motion for a change of venue June 2, claiming Steinheimer could not receive a fair trial in Monroe County due to coverage of the case in the Republic-Times and on the Facebook page “Our Angels: Abby & Hannah,” which is administered by Liefer’s family. Traughber specifically mentioned a Facebook post that detailed failed plea negotiations between prosecutors and Steinheimer’s defense, which was subsequently mentioned in a May 25 article in the R-T.

Doyle denied the motion.

Steinheimer has been on house arrest since November, when she was released from the Monroe County Jail after previously violating her recognizance bond by driving on a revoked license while awaiting trial.

She is facing possible prison sentences ranging from three to 14 years for reckless homicide, increasing to six to 28 years for causing multiple deaths; and one to 12 years on the aggravated DUI charge.

In a separate matter, auto insurer Affirmative Insurance Company filed paperwork last year seeking a declaratory judgment from the court in Monroe County that it “has no duty or obligation to defend or indemnify” Steinheimer for any damages claimed as a result of the crash.

The insurance company said Steinheimer had a policy issued through her family on a 1998 Chevrolet Blazer, but the 2008 Chevy Aveo she was driving the night of the crash had not been added to the policy within 30 days of Steinheimer’s acquisition of the new vehicle, as is required, the filing states.

The families of Liefer and Porter have also filed wrongful death lawsuits in St. Clair County against Steinheimer, as well as the Evansville establishments that served her alcohol the night of the crash: KBB Growth LLC, d/b/a Water Street Bar & Grill; Just Sue’s and owner Susan Levery; and Michael J’s Saloon and owner Michael J. Stefani.
All three taverns are alleged to have “sold, served or gave alcoholic liquors to Crystal Steinheimer, who then drank the alcoholic liquor on the premises and became intoxicated.”

The Liefer family is seeking “a reasonable sum in excess of $50,000, and costs of suit.” Porter’s family seeks more than $75,000 for each of the suit’s 12 counts.

(Corey Saathoff contributed to this report.)

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