SYCAMORE – Steve Ode said that he’ll never forget seeing his son in a body bag on the morning of Jan. 18, 2017.
“It’s a memory that is seared into my skull,” he said.
Now, the St. Charles man accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed Johnathon Ode faces more than a decade in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to aggravated DUI.
John Yanni, 28, was facing charges of aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide after the crash that killed DeKalb High School senior Ode and injured his passenger Evan Cortez of Elgin. The reckless homicide charge was dropped as part of Yanni’s blind plea.
Judge Phillip Montgomery said Thursday the aggravated DUI charge could carry a maximum sentence of 14 years.
His trial was set to begin Monday.
For the family of Johnathon Ode, the plea provided a small measure of closure after a trying week. Katie Ode, Johnathon’s stepmother, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
“At least she passed away knowing the guilty plea was coming,” Steve Ode said. He said he felt relief after the plea. “But it doesn’t bring back my son.”
Ode and Pat Cortez, Evan’s mother, have been to every court appearance for three years.
“This will be over, but it can never be over,” Cortez said.
Prosecutors said on Thursday that lab results from Yanni’s blood test the night of the crash measured a blood alcohol content of .125. Yanni told police that he had been drinking alcohol at Schmidt’s Towne Tap in Elburn prior to the crash, Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Schwertley said.
The crash occurred at about 7:15 p.m. Jan. 17, 2017, on Route 38 east of Peace Road, according to a news release from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. Police said Yanni was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado pickup west on Route 38 when his vehicle crossed the highway’s centerline.
Yanni’s truck first hit a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup then collided head-on with Ode’s vehicle, a 2000 Ford Taurus, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said at the time.
After the collision, a 2002 Hyundai Elantra rear-ended Yanni’s truck, police said.
Cortez suffered a broken femur, a fractured sternum and a fractured vertebra in the crash. Both he and Ode were wearing seatbelts, according to police at the time.
Following the crash, Yanni was taken to Kishwaukee Hospital. He was arrested upon his release and initially held on a $1 million bond. It was later lowered to $10,000 and he was released after posting $1,000 for bail.
Yanni did not comment following Thursday’s plea.
The next step is a sentencing hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. May 13. At that point, family members will be able to make statements. Steve Ode said his wife, Katie, had been working on her statement before she died.
“As a victim, you don’t have much,” he said. “But she wrote and rewrote her victim impact statement.”
Karen Suggs, a victim service specialist with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said she would be reading the statement at the hearing.
Steve Ode’s first wife, and Johnathon’s mother, died from cancer in 2008.
Recently, the Odes set up a GoFundMe to help pay for Katie’s funeral and medical costs.
Steve Ode said the next step is to hold responsible the Elburn bar that he said overserved Yanni.
“My son is not here because of people making bad decisions all around,” he said.
Source: The Daily Chronicle