A night of revelry ended in inconceivable tragedy when an Illinois man accidentally ran over his wife, killing her in the driveway of their home, authorities said.
Jonathan E. Whitwell, 36, has been charged with felony aggravated DUI resulting in death in connection with the fatal accident Friday evening, which left his wife, Stephanie M. Whitwell, dead. He was released from jail on Monday after posting $50,000 bond, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The couple went out drinking Friday night and did the responsible thing, using a ride-sharing service to return to their home in a rural part of St. Clair County, according to the Belleville News-Democrat. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office believes that Jonathan Whitwell went inside the house, while Stephanie Whitwell remained outside, laying down on the driveway.
Apparently confused by her absence, Jonathan Whitwell got into his 2004 GMC pickup and drove off in the rain to search for his missing wife, authorities said. It wasn’t until he returned home empty-handed that the unthinkable happened: The concerned husband ran over his wife as he pulled into the driveway, the sheriff’s office said.
Deputies arrived at the home shortly after midnight, and Stephanie Whitwell, who was unconscious, was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Belleville, where she later died.
“They were doing the right thing in that they [initially] weren’t driving,” Capt. Bruce Fleshren, chief of investigations for the sheriff’s office, told the Belleville News-Democrat. “It shows that in any situation, when you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, which we believed played a large factor in this event, anything bad that will, can go wrong.”
Jonathan Whitwell, who did not have a criminal record, was arrested Sunday. The sheriff’s office said the charges against him may be upgraded to reckless homicide after the grand jury is presented with the case. If convicted, he faces three to 14 years in prison.
“There is no indication that there were any domestic issues prior to this incident,” the sheriff’s office said. “It appears to be an alcohol-related tragedy for this family.”