Timothy Vandervere is now facing additional charges related to the April 5 crash on Highway 50 that killed three members of a well-known Kenosha family.
Vandervere had already been charged with three counts of reckless homicide for the crash that killed Dr. Michael Rizzo, 67, a Kenosha family practitioner; his brother Dr. Vincent Rizzo, 76, a dentist; and Vincent’s wife Mary Rizzo, 67, a registered nurse. A third brother, Gerald Rizzo, 72, was seriously injured.
Vandervere, 40, of Beach Park, Ill., was estimated to be driving his 2018 GMC pickup truck at 100 mph when he slammed into the rear of Gerald Rizzo’s Jeep Cherokee as both vehicles were headed east on Highway 50 near 216th Avenue in Salem Lakes.
The Rizzos’ vehicle was catapulted from the road by the force of the crash and came to rest on its roof down a slope from the highway.
On April 12, results of a blood test taken from Vandervere after the crash were released that showed his blood-alcohol content was 0.316 percent, nearly four times over the legal limit.
Rescuers at the crash scene reported that Vandervere smelled of alcohol, and drunken driving was suspected as a cause in the crash. However, blood test results were not yet in when Vandervere was initially criminally charged April 9.
With the blood test results now available, the state issued additional charges, including three counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and one count of injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle.
The new charges carry a maximum initial prison sentence of 25 years for each OWI homicide count.
The new charges are filed in addition to the earlier charges, for which Vandervere already faced up to 90 years in prison if convicted.
No sign of braking
At a preliminary hearing Thursday, Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department Detective Jeffrey Bliss testified that three witnesses either saw the crash or reported seeing Vandervere driving recklessly before the crash.
One witness reported seeing the GMC truck on Highway 50 west of Paddock Lake “swerving from side to side, nearly hitting mailboxes at high speed,” Bliss testified.
Another witness reported seeing the crash, then seeing the Jeep go off the road and overturn, and the truck continue east before it left the road and “hit a curb, a sign, a fence, several trees and then came to rest in a creek,” Bliss said.
The detective said a state trooper who conducted the crime scene investigation concluded that Vandervere had been driving at about 100 mph based on the crush damage to the rear of the Jeep.
Deputy District Attorney Angelina Gabriele asked if there was any evidence found in the crash investigation that Vandervere had hit the brakes on his truck to try to avoid hitting the Rizzo’s Jeep.
“There were no skid marks, tire marks or anything on the scene that would indicate that prior to impact,” Bliss testified.
Gabriele asked if there was evidence showing Vandervere attempted to swerve to avoid hitting the Jeep.
“There is no indication of that,” Bliss answered.
Court Commissioner Larry Keating found there was probable cause for the charges against Vandervere.
During the hearing, Vandervere spoke just once, answering “yes” when Keating asked him if he understood all the conditions of the $2 million bond remaining in force.