MASCOUTAH, Ill. (KMOV.com) - A cross sits at the intersection of Jefferson Road and Brickyard Road just south of Mascoutah, IL. There are yellow flowers and the name Caroline Elizabeth Tinsley on the memorial.
On May 4, police say Timothy Junius, 19, ran a stop sign and hit another car. The man and woman inside were injured and taken to the hospital. The woman was seven months pregnant and her baby did not survive.
Four months after the crash, Junius was charged with aggravated DUI while consuming cannabis resulting in the death of a child.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Capt. Bruce Fleshran of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
His department and others across Illinois are preparing for January 1, when marijuana will become legal for everyone 21 and older.
“Like with alcohol there’s going to be people who abuse it and think they can drive under the influence. It’s going to be an interesting scenario to see how this all plays out,” said Fleshran.
Deborah Nazari knows the pain of losing a child. Her son’s cross sits at the intersection of Highway 161 and Shiloh Station Road.
“Someone turned in front of him, and later we were informed they were likely under the influence,” said Nazari.
Her son, Douglas Landers, was 23-years-old when he was killed in April 2016. Earlier this month, the woman who caused the crash plead guilty to aggravated DUI. Patricia Schantz was found guilty after a stipulated bench trial.
Police have long had tests for drunk driving, but with high driving, it’s different.
“We don’t have that with cannabis, we’re kind of stuck with observations on scene by our own experienced people and then it’s going to be up to a blood and urine draw,” said Fleshran.
Charges against Junius took several months as they awaited toxicology results from his blood. But Illinois State Police (ISP) say they are researching saliva-based testing.
“Several states have implemented technology that has shown promise and could be effective here in Illinois. The ISP is working to implement this technology to identify driving under the influence of all drugs including opioids as soon as possible,” a spokesperson for ISP said.
ISP is also training troopers to be Drug Recognition Experts as well as providing new cadets with Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training.
Nazari found help through Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) following her son’s death. The organization is also taking a stance against drugged driving. There is a walk to raise awareness for all impaired driving on Saturday September 28 at Rock Spring Park in O’Fallon, Ill.
“In our culture it’s just ‘I’m not that drunk, I’m not that inebriated,’ any amount of substance in your system can affect your ability to drive,” said Nazari.