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Former Bradley student pleads guilty in drunk driving crash that killed two

Tazewell County Courthouse. Photo by Jonathan Michel

 Former Bradley student Stephanie Melgoza faces up to 28 years in prison for fatally striking two pedestrians with her car in East Peoria in April 2022.

In Tazewell County Circuit Court on Thursday morning, Melgoza entered a blind plea, meaning that she pled guilty to the four charges against her without accepting a plea deal. In a blind plea, the duration of the defendant’s sentencing will be decided solely by the judge and will not exceed the maximum sentence.

“My client did not set out to do this, did not intend to do this, did not foresee that these would be consequences at the location this occurred,” Melgoza’s attorney Kevin Sullivan said. “She had no intent, she had no malice in her heart and is exceptionally remorseful.” 

Melgoza was charged with two counts of aggravated DUI resulting in death, both Class 2 felonies, and two counts of aggravated reckless driving resulting in bodily harm, both Class 4 felonies, that resulted in the deaths of 43-year-old Andrea Rosewicz and 55-year-old Paul Prowant on April 10, 2022.

The charges carry a sentencing range between six and 28 years. Each aggravated DUI charge can range from three to 14 years in prison and both charges may be served consecutively. Melgoza will be sentenced on April 27 at 9 a.m. by Judge Tim Cusack in Tazewell County.

“We know that there’s punishment that’s going to be imposed, just hopefully it fits the person more so than the situation,” Sullivan said.

Melgoza, a senior at Bradley at the time of the incident, was driving near Throttle Bar in East Peoria when she struck and killed both pedestrians with her Dodge Dart.

According to Tazewell County Circuit Court records, a police officer found her at the scene of the crash with slurred speech, red, watery eyes and a noticeable odor of alcohol on her breath. Officers also located cannabis, a pipe and an open bottle of vodka in the car, which suffered heavy damage, as well. The records also state that Melgoza admitted to “drinking three vodka drinks prior to driving” and estimated she was driving 40 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone.

Melgoza additionally carried a misdemeanor charge of unlawful possession of cannabis and petty offense charges of illegal transportation of alcohol and failure to reduce speed; however, those three charges were waived on Thursday as part of the blind plea.

Melgoza was scheduled to graduate from Bradley shortly after her arrest. Following the incident, many Bradley students protested her inclusion on a list of students approved to graduate and inscribed multiple chalk messages outside of Bradley Hall. Approximately two and a half weeks after her arrest, Melgoza’s name was removed from the list of graduating seniors.

A chalk message written in front of the statue of Lydia Moss Bradley in April protesting Melgoza’s ability to graduate. Photo by Jonathan Michel.
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