Trial begins in 2011 traffic deaths in Crete Township
By Frank Vaisvilas Correspondent May 20, 2014 6:10PM
Updated: June 24, 2014 6:30AM
A University Park man went on trial this week in the March 2011 traffic deaths of two women who were killed when the car they were riding in went off the road and struck a tree.
Velar Mayfield, 26, is charged with aggravated driving under the influence in an accidental death. Killed were his girlfriend Cheyenne Cardosi, 21, of Cedar Lake, Ind., and Sarah Shepard, 21, of Park Forest, who were passengers in his car when the crash occurred about noon in the 300 block of Bemes Road in Crete Township.
Mayfield tested positive for marijuana at a hospital shortly after the crash, prosecutors said. He has been held at the county jail under $100,000 bail since December 2011.
Jurors were selected Tuesday in Will County Circuit Court and heard opening statements from Assistant State’s Attorney Daniel Walsh and Mayfield’s attorney, Cosmo Tedone.
“This is truly just an accident,” Tedone told them.
He told jurors that witnesses will testify that Mayfield did not appear to be driving while impaired, and the accident was caused by icy road conditions. The passengers also were not wearing seat belts, Tedone said.
Walsh told the jury that he doesn’t have to prove that Mayfield was driving under the influence of marijuana, only that Mayfield tested positive for having marijuana in his body.
Walsh called several witnesses on Tuesday, including Brandon Phipps, who said he was riding with his cousin that day on Bemes Road and “we watched the entire thing happen.”
He testified that they were driving near the speed limit of 45 mph when Mayfield passed their vehicle on the rural road, and Phipps saw the car vehicle spin out of control after driving over a hill and crash into a tree on its passenger side.
Shepard was ejected from the vehicle, Phipps said, and he saw that she was dead when he checked on her. Cardosi was taken to a hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Phipps told the jury that Mayfield was unconscious for a few minutes after the accident and became very upset after he regained consciousness and realized what happened to the two women.
On cross-examination, Tedone pointed out that Phipps initially told police that Mayfield was not driving erratically or too fast for conditions and didn’t mention that Mayfield’s car had passed the car he was in.