DECATUR — The woman charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in a crash that seriously injured a Decatur police sergeant pleaded not guilty in Macon County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Karla M. Rhodes, 52, faces two charges of aggravated DUI causing great bodily harm while having a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.08 percent, and a second count of aggravated DUI.
The crash involving Rhodes happened just before midnight Feb. 3. Prosecutors say her sport utility vehicle ran a red light at North Main Street and West Garfield Avenue before ramming the squad car driven by Sgt. Steve Hagemeyer.
He had to be cut from the wreckage by fire crews. In a police affidavit, Master Patrol Officer Peter Hackleman had described Hagemeyer, 43, as being “in a great deal of pain.”
Blood-alcohol tests at the scene of the crash showed Rhodes had a blood alcohol content of 0.156 percent. Later, at the Macon County Jail, she gave a sample that registered 0.172 percent. The legal limit for driving in Illinois is 0.08 percent.
Rhodes, represented by attorney Greg Fombelle, told Macon County Circuit Judge Phoebe Bowers that she was waiving formal arraignment on the charges as she entered her not guilty plea. Her case was then scheduled for a pretrial hearing May 10.
Hagemeyer told the Herald & Review in an email Tuesday evening that "I'm still having some pain but trying to get back to normal." He has been back at work on desk duty and, since Sunday, has been cleared to return to full duty, according to Deputy Police Chief Shane Brandel.
A police department veteran of 20 years, Hagemeyer worked as a patrol sergeant for third shift. He is the department’s coordinator for DUI enforcement efforts.
Brandel said Hagemeyer's colleagues are thankful his injuries were not more severe and said the police will continue their efforts to get impaired drivers off the road. “The Decatur Police Department has taken heat in the past for our aggressive stance on drunk driving,” he said in an email.
“But I can’t stress enough that drunk driving can and does affect everyone. ... The Decatur Police Department will always be committed to protecting our citizens from those who are selfish and make the decision to drink and drive and put their lives and the lives of innocent people in danger.”