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Drunken driver who killed pedestrian pleads guilty

Six other charges dropped; sentencing set for May

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 5:56 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 5:59 p.m. CDT
Chad E. Morse

MORRISON – A Rock Falls man who was driving drunk when he hit and killed a pedestrian pleaded guilty Tuesday to aggravated DUI.

Chad E. Morse, 41, will be sentenced May 14 in Whiteside County Court for killing Brad E. Nitsch, 33, of Rock Falls, on Nov. 26, 2011. He faces 3 to 14 years in prison.

As part of a plea agreement, reached before his bench trial that was set to begin Tuesday, six other counts were dismissed: three counts of reckless homicide, another count of aggravated DUI, and two counts of misdemeanor DUI.

Aggravated DUI was "the most serious" of the charges, because it is punishable by more prison time and because Morse must serve more of his sentence before parole is possible, Whiteside County Assistant State's Attorney James Fagerman said.

In Illinois, a person found guilty in a DUI case resulting in death must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole, which in this case would be between 2 years, 6.5 months and 11 years, 11 months.

In most criminal cases, defendants must serve only 50 percent of their sentence before being eligible, Fagerman said.

Morse, who remains in the Whiteside County Jail, also could be fined up to $25,000.

Krissy Collins, 32, of Mobile, Ala., is Nitsch's sister.

"I don't feel justice was served," Collins said in a phone interview. "He's only pleaded to one charge. The state is the one who dismissed the charges. If it was their family member, how would they feel?"

Collins said she would like Morse to serve the rest of his life in prison.

"Personally, I feel like he took my brother's life," she said. "A life for a life. He chose to drink and drive. He chose to get behind the wheel of that vehicle after he was drinking."

"Every day we got to feel the pain," she said. "My mother cries because her son's gone all the time. Every day we have to live without him. It's not fair at all."

Police say Morse was going 51 to 63 mph in a 30-mph zone around 11:30 p.m. when he drove off the road, hitting Nitsch, who was standing in the 700 block of Avenue D.

The SUV then hit a utility pole head-on, rolled and lodged between the front porch and two trees at 703 Ave. D. Nitsch’s body was found in the yard, south of the SUV, police said.

Morse’s blood-alcohol level was .147, nearly double the legal limit of .08, investigators said.

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