Chesterton Tribune

Alisha Purnick dies of crash injuries; teen driver may face adult charges

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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.”


Posted 6/12/2008