The mother of Cynthia Perez, an Antioch teen killed last month in an alleged street-racing crash, sobbed as she left a Lake County courtroom Tuesday after a judge lowered bail for the teen who authorities said was behind the wheel.
Prosecutors also said Tuesday that new test results showed Jeremy Betancourt, 17, had marijuana in his system at the time of the June 24 crash in Gurnee — prompting them to announce an additional charge against him of aggravated DUI.
"I'm disgusted. I'm hurt," said Perez's mother, Hilda Hinkle. "I want legal justice for my daughter."
Betancourt, who had already been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated street racing, could be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison.
Perez, 16, had asked to be let out of the car that night, and had removed her seat belt, because Betancourt was driving so erratically, said her boyfriend, Gio Bustos, who was also in the car and was seriously injured in the crash.
"He wouldn't let her out (of the car), but now they are letting him out (of jail)?" Hinkle said. "His parents will get to bring him home. I have a lock of her hair and an urn with her ashes on my dresser."
Judge Raymond Collins agreed to lower Betancourt's bail from $250,000 to $100,000 but ordered that if he posts the $10,000 necessary to be released from jail, he must enroll in an in-patient psychiatric treatment program or be on 24-hour curfew at his mother's home. Betancourt, who authorities said did not have a valid driver's license at the time of the crash, also cannot drive, drink or take drugs if he is released. while he awaits trial.
His attorney, Jed Stone, argued that Betancourt's youth should be a consideration.
"This is a 17-year-old boy who carries with him the weight of knowing that his conduct resulted in his friend losing her life," Stone said. "In the world that I live in, children need our love and compassion, not extended terms in the Department of Corrections. At the same time, we never lose sight of the fact that there is a grieving family who has lost a child that they love."
Bustos, 20, who had dated Perez for six months, said he has mixed emotions about Betancourt, who was his friend. But Bustos said he also wants justice for the girl he loved.
Bustos said Betancourt had been "doing doughnuts" in the parking lot of Gurnee Mills mall and then, just before the crash, was driving erratically, switching lanes rapidly and "trying to get in front of" a car driven by Michael Dawson, 19.
"It was just a mistake that (Betancourt) did. It was just stupid," Bustos said. "I think he should go to jail for quite a time because it was dumb what he did."
Bustos said he and Perez had many plans for the future.
"I wanted to marry that girl," he said. "I was deeply in love with her. She was my baby."
While Bustos' numerous physical scars were apparent — including, most visibly, a gash on his forehead that required 35 staples — his mental scars go much deeper, he said. To help him recover, he said he has been staying in the home of his girlfriend's parents and sleeping in her bed.
"I feel so comfortable there," he said. "I am reading letters that she sent to me and letters that she never had a chance to give to me. They are helping me to heal a lot."
Betancourt is due back in court July 29. Dawson, who was also charged with aggravated street racing in the crash, remained in Lake County Jail as of Tuesday, according to online jail firstname.lastname@example.org