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Man warned he was too drunk to drive just before fatal crash
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Man warned he was too drunk to drive just before fatal crash

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Before Christopher Thayer walked out of Rivals Tavern on New Year’s Day, another man tried to stop him.

“Dude, don’t go outside,” the man warned, believing Thayer was too drunk to drive. The man later told investigators that Thayer walked out anyway at about 6:20 p.m., saying, “I’m not going far.”

About 10 minutes later and a half-mile away, Thayer allegedly drove his pickup west in the eastbound lane on Highway K and crashed head-on into a Toyota Corolla driven by 53-year-old Djuana Latshaw, killing her. Latshaw’s 7-year-old grandson was in the back seat of the Corolla and was injured but conscious, “upset and frantic,” according to a Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputy who arrived at the scene.

Thayer, a Paris resident, was charged Wednesday with homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle and injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle. His bond was set at $25,000.

According to the criminal complaint, Thayer, 38, had spent the New Year’s Day holiday at Rivals, 6325 120th Ave. The complaint states that he met friends at the tavern at about 10:30 a.m. and had been there until shortly before the crash.

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The complaint states that three witnesses, including a bartender at the tavern, told investigators they repeatedly offered Thayer rides home because they believed he was too drunk to drive. One witness told investigators “numerous people tried to get the defendant to call for a ride and not to drive his own vehicle … a guy in the bar even offered to pay for an Uber for the defendant but the defendant still refused.”

A witness to the crash told a deputy he was driving when a pickup accelerated at a high rate of speed from behind his vehicle then “blew past him traveling westbound at a high rate of speed” heading west in the eastbound lane, according to the complaint. The witness said he saw headlights approaching from the east and that the truck continued to travel toward the headlights. He said both vehicles appeared to swerve at the last moment, but collided head-on.

The complaint states that Thayer was unconscious when a deputy arrived at the crash. He regained consciousness a short time later. A deputy at the scene said he smelled strongly of alcohol. Later, he told another deputy he had been drinking throughout the day.

According to the complaint, Latshaw died of multiple blunt force injuries, including to her head and spine. Her 7-year-old grandson was injured, including suffering a fractured pelvis.

In court Wednesday, Thayer appeared uninjured with the exception of abrasions on his face.

His attorney Gregory Rothstein said Thayer is married, has two children, and has “absolutely no criminal record.” He said Thayer owns a construction company that employs 18 to 20 people.

In setting his bond, Commissioner David Berman said that even with no past criminal history Thayer, if convicted, is “likely to face a significant period of incarceration.”

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