COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A jury found that Richard Strum was not high when he killed two people in a fatal car crash almost two years ago.
Still, a judge sentenced the 36-year-old Jefferson Park resident to 15 years in prison Monday for the accident that prosecutors linked to marijuana use.
Strum, of the 5400 block of North Mobile Avenue, was speeding and had marijuana in his system when his Ford Mustang hit the Honda Civic driven by Claudia Delia, 35, around 8 a.m. on Aug. 9, 2011, near Austin and Sunnyside avenues, prosecutors said.
Delia and her son Bryan, 16, were killed. Delia's 3-year-old son Hauk Marvin, her stepson, Zack Marvin, 15, and the boys' friend Chris Diaz, 16, who were riding in the back seat, were injured. All were on their way to a relative's house to begin a trip to the Wisconsin Dells.
Bryan Delia would have started his junior year at Taft High School a month after the crash.
Strum did not have a valid license at the time of the crash. It had been suspended after he failed to pay a judgment against him resulting from a 2000 car accident, officials said.
In May, a jury convicted Strum of multiple counts of reckless homicide and aggravated DUI but acquitted him of impaired driving charges, in part because urine tests revealed only trace amounts of THC in his system.
"That day will always live with me," Strum said, asking the judge for mercy. "I was not driving impaired. ... It was my stupidity that cause that accident."
Family members described for the court how the morning of Aug. 9, 2011, expected to kick off a week of fun before the start of school, turned into a "nightmare."
Delia's mother recalled how she found her daughter and grandson lying dead, side-by-side at the hospital.
"She did not resemble our daughter," said Guadalupe Delia through a Spanish interpreter. "I felt as if we had fallen into an abyss, and we couldn't come out."
Citing Strum's criminal history and the death of two people as a result of his "selfishness" rather than impairment from drugs or alcohol, Judge James Linn sentenced Strum to 15 years on the reckless homicide charges and 10 years for driving under the influence, which will be served concurrently.