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Woman indicted in fatal crash

Accident resulted in Sterling man's death

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 1:29 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 11:32 p.m. CDT

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MORRISON – A Chadwick woman has been charged in a fatal accident in which her car struck a motorcyclist from behind.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Theresa Ruf, 44, on charges of reckless homicide with a motor vehicle, a felony, and failure to reduce speed. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to 2 to 5 years.

On June 5, a motorcycle driven by Samuel L. Munz, 53, of rural Sterling, was hit from behind by Ruf's SUV. Munz was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Munz, a Sterling Steel employee, was riding his motorcycle on state Route 40 about a half-mile east of Ridge Road. He was stopped to turn left into his driveway when Ruf's SUV hit him.

In August, Munz's son, Jacob Munz, the executor of his father's estate, filed a lawsuit against Ruf in Whiteside County Circuit Court.

In November, Ruf, represented by Rock Falls attorney Lou Pignatelli, responded to the lawsuit, claiming that Munz failed to exercise due care for his safety. Much of the information in his response came from the state police's accident reconstruction report.

The report said the motorcycle was not equipped with turn signals, which meant Munz was required to use hand and arm signals.

An accident witness told state police that he didn't see Munz use hand and arm signals before he stopped to turn into his driveway. A state police officer reported he had seen someone fitting Munz's description a few days before turning into the same driveway without using signals.

The officer also said the driver, possibly Munz, "wasn't paying attention at all, to his surroundings or anything."

The report said the motorcycle's brake light was small, limiting its effectiveness in alerting other drivers.

The police also said Munz had a barbiturate known as Hexobarbital in his system, which "can be quite dangerous."

The report didn't indicate the amount of barbiturates in Munz's system or whether they would have affected his ability to drive.

Ruf, who works for Pignatelli, said she hasn't been commenting on the case "out of respect for the gentleman's family." She said her heart and prayers go out to them.

"They are going through a tremendous loss, and it is disrespectful to continually drag this through the press and for the family to be reminded time and time again," she said in an email. "That said, I'm ready for the trial to move forward so that information can be brought to light that will clearly define this as an accident (albeit a horrendous accident), and we can all move to resolution and hopefully healing for all involved."

Attorney Jim Mertes, representing Jacob Munz, didn't return a call for comment.

Ruf will be arraigned Wednesday.

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