AP NEWS

Morez found guilty of 2016 snowmobile crash that killed Manteno woman

March 17, 2019

KANKAKEE — Louis A. Morez, of Manteno, was found guilty of three of four charges of felony operating a snowmobile while under the influence resulting in the death of Kristin Agrue in December 2016.

Judge Thomas Cunnington made his decision Friday after a weeklong bench trial.

A person convicted of the offense can receive probation. The prison sentence is between three and 14 years. Morez’s next court date is May 2.

Cunnington stayed Morez’s bond revocation until Monday. He is then to report to the Kankakee County Courthouse to be taken into custody.

“I’m very satisfied with the decision,” Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said afterward. He prosecuted the case along with Assistant State’s Attorney Val Gunderson.

“I hope this brings Kristin’s family some justice. It cannot bring Kristin back, but putting Louis behind bars can be some bit of closure.”

The 43-year-old Morez and Agrue’s boyfriend, Brian J. Johnson, 41, were both arrested for operating a snowmobile under the influence resulting in a death. Johnson’s trial is set for May 6 before Cunnington. The 41-year-old Johnson is represented by attorney Tony Brasel.

Agrue was riding as a passenger on Johnson’s snowmobile on Dec. 18, 2016, when it jumped a culvert along 11000N Road near 2600E Road in Manteno Township. Agrue was tossed from the snowmobile and was struck by Morez, who was riding behind them.

“I am disappointed in the decision,” Morez’s attorney, Ed Glazar, said.

“There were three impartial witnesses who testified Louie was not intoxicated at 7:30 to 9 (p.m.) that night. There is one witness who is the co-defendant who said he was. I will be filing motions for a new trial and a motion to reconsider the decision.”

The 24-year-old Agrue was fatally injured. According to testimony, Morez went to Johnson’s house to call 911. His cellphone was frozen. He could not get in and found Johnson’s daughter and stepdaughter sitting in a vehicle waiting for Johnson to return. Morez had them call 911.

Johnson drove Agrue back to the home on his snowmobile. She was pronounced dead at Riverside Medical Center that night.

Both Morez and Johnson allegedly were under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the fatal crash.

Forensic scientists from Illinois State Police testified this week that Morez’s blood alcohol content was almost .229, three times the legal limit .08. There also was traces of cocaine and THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. He testified he took cocaine on the Friday before the accident and smoked some cannabis after the accident.

Co-defendant testifies

While Johnson’s case still is pending Rowe filed a motion to have Johnson testify under use immunity, which prevents the prosecution from using the witness’s statements or any evidence derived from those statements against the witness in a criminal prosecution.

Johnson testified on two occasions Morez told him he was (messed) up.” The second time occurred at Edwin’s bar on Illinois Route 50 near Peotone, which is where the group was coming from prior to the accident.

Johnson said he saw Morez lay his head down on the bar and close his eyes. Johnson said Morez’s speech was slurred as well.

On cross examination by Glazar, Johnson testified that he is a co-defendant, was not given a deal to testify and, like Morez, is being sued by the estate of Kristin Agrue for more than $50,000.

“When you were interviewed by police, you never said Louie was intoxicated. You never said he was passed out. You never said he laid his head on the bar, closed his eyes or said he was (messed) up,” Glazar said.

“No,” Johnson said.

“You only said that after you were given immunity. I was declined (the opportunity) when I asked to talk with you.”

During his testimony, Morez said he drank five beers and one shot of whiskey between 11 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Wes Swisher and Kaydee Doyle, friends of Johnson, Morez and Agrue, testified Morez did not appear drunk, did not slur his words or say he was messed up.

The accident occurred as the group traveled to Manteno Sportsmen’s Club. Johnson was taking Agrue back to their house to dress warmer. It was windy and bitterly cold. The temperature was minus 13 degrees, according to testimony by Kankakee County Sheriff’s Detective Brady Bertrand. Blowing snow caused whiteout conditions several witnesses testified.

On the way to the Sportsmen’s Club, Swisher and Doyle stopped so Doyle could adjust her gloves. Morez turned around to make sure all was OK.

While Swisher and Doyle continued to the Sportsmen’s Club, Morez stayed with Johnson and Agrue.

Johnson testified he hit a dip causing Agrue to be thrown from the snowmobile. Before he could get to her, Johnson said Morez hit Agrue. The impact knocked her helmet off. Johnson said Agrue was lifeless when he reached her. He got her back to the house and carried her to the porch.

“I didn’t know I hit her,” Morez said.

On cross examination from Gunderson, Morez testified “the evidence showed I did.”

Morez said he was in shock. His wife, Tonia Morez, testified he was “frazzled.” He told her what happened.

They both testified that Morez went to the freezer and took out a bottle of Jagermeister (750 milliliters) and chugged one-half to three-quarters of the bottle in 10 to 15 minutes before going to bed.

He was awakened when police came to the house in regards to the accident.

Dr. James T. O’Donnell, an expert witness for the defense, testified based on the amount of alcohol consumed by Morez between 11 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., Morez’s blood alcohol content was .03. The higher result came from Morez’s drinking the Jagermeister after the accident.