Steger man gets 9-1/2 years for DUI crash that killed 5-year-old boy

January 20

Cecil Conner

JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced today that a Steger man whose drunken driving caused a collision that killed a 5-year-old boy has been sentenced to 9-1/2 years in prison.

Circuit Judge Edward Burmila sentenced Cecil Conner, 24, on Friday afternoon for causing the crash that killed Michael Langford Jr, who was sleeping in the backseat of his car. A jury found Conner guilty of two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in February 2011.

“Judge Burmila handed down an appropriate sentence for a drunken driver whose actions claimed the life of an innocent child,” said State’s Attorney Glasgow. “Cecil Conner knowingly sped through a residential neighborhood while he was highly intoxicated. He alone is responsible for losing control of his vehicle, crashing through a fence, striking a tree and causing Michael’s death.”

Conner was driving between 66-73 mph when his Chevy Cavalier crossed the center line, drove across several lawns, ripped down a fence and collided with a large pine tree at about 3:15 a.m. on May 10 on 34th Street in Steger. His blood-alcohol level was later tested at .180, more than twice the legal limit. 

Michael suffered a broken neck and severe head injuries in the wreck. He was unresponsive at the scene and pronounced dead at a hospital later that morning. Michael was the son of Conner’s girlfriend.

Conner had been drinking at a friend’s home the prior evening and into the morning of the crash. His girlfriend, Kathie LaFond, brought her son with her to pick Conner up late that night. LaFond, however, was pulled over by a Chicago Heights police officer on the way home while Conner was in the passenger seat. She was arrested for driving without a valid license; the car was turned over to Conner at the traffic stop.

At trial, defense attorneys failed to convince jurors that the police officer was solely responsible for the fatal crash. Assistant State’s Attorneys Debbie Mills and Alyson Wozniak noted at trial that LaFond and the defendant failed to tell the officer Conner was drunk. They argued the defendant chose to drive for 28 minutes after the traffic stop and then chose to speed through the streets before causing the one-car wreck that claimed Michael’s life.

State’s Attorney Glasgow praised prosecutors Mills and Wozniak for their first-rate trial work. Wozniak is an assistant state’s attorney in the office’s felony division; Mills is the chief of the office’s Misdemeanor Division, an expert in the area of DUI prosecutions and a member of the state’s attorney’s Special Prosecutions Team.