The Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is seeking to try as an adult
a 17-year-old Westville girl who police said was intoxicated when she crashed
her vehicle into a tree on C.R. 1400N in Pine Township earlier this month,
fatally injuring her passenger.
Alisha A. Purnick, 17, of Liberty Township, who was riding in the front seat
of the vehicle, died of her injuries at 7:45 p.m. on Sunday at St. James
Hospital and Health Centers in Olympia Fields, Ill., where she had been
airlifted with head trauma after the accident a week before, Lt. Chris Eckert
of the Porter County Sheriff’s Police said.
Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel told the Chesterton Tribune today that a
petition to waive the driver into adult court was filed on Wednesday. A
hearing on the petition has been scheduled for later this month.
That petition lists four potential charges against the driver, Gensel said:
reckless homicide, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight
years; leaving the scene of a fatal accident, also a Class C felony;
operating while intoxicated resulting in a fatality, a Class C felony as
well; and operating while intoxicated, a Class A misdemeanor.
According to police, at 5:10 a.m. Sunday, June 1, the driver was westbound on
C.R. 1400N, west of C.R. 400E, and had just looked down to close her cellular
telephone after completing a call when Purnick yelled at her “to pay
attention to the road.” The driver advised police that she looked up to see
that she was driving off the roadway. Police said that the driver then lost
control of her vehicle, a 1994 Chevrolet Cavalier, which left the roadway to
the south and struck a tree on the passenger’s front side.
The driver asked neighbors to call for help, police said, then flagged down a
passing motorist and left the scene.
She was later returned to the scene by a family acquaintance, police said.
The driver subsequently registered a blood alcohol content of .16 percent on
a certified test, police said, and was detained at the Porter County Juvenile
Detention Center. Motorists in Indiana are considered legally intoxicated
when they score a B.A.C. of .08 percent or higher.
Eckert said this morning that the investigation into how the driver obtained
the alcohol and where she drank it is ongoing.
Gensel cited several factors in the decision to seek to try the driver as an
adult. For one thing Gensel pointed to the “seriousness” of the allegation: a
fatality caused by drinking and driving. For another thing, he said, the
driver is about a month shy of turning 18. “The juvenile justice system is
not well equipped to deal with persons 18 years of age.”