After a three-week search, Berwyn police announced yesterday that they had arrested the owner of an SUV involved in a March 3 crash that killed a 58-year-old Riverside woman.
Police Chief William Kushner confirmed that Stephen J. Pocina, 44, of Riverside, was being held on a warrant issued yesterday afternoon by the Cook County State’s Attorney for leaving the scene of an accident.
Berwyn police have arranged a lineup for tonight at the Berwyn Police Department. If witnesses confirm that Pocina was the man they saw get out of his vehicle after the early-morning crash, Kushner said that he will seek reckless homicide charges.
Kushner added that if Berwyn police can prove anyone aided or helped conceal Pocina from police, they would also seek obstruction charges. Since the time of crash police have repeatedly announced they were interested in questioning the owner of the SUV.
The arrest warrant was issued after forensic evidence collected inside the 2004 Range Rover found wedged inside the train depot at 7135 W. Windsor Ave. matched DNA evidence collected at Pocina’s Riverside condominium and DNA evidence collected last week by police from Pocina’s mother and sister, Kushner said.
Kathleen Talmage, a 40-year employee of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad who worked as a ticket agent and was inside the depot at the time of the incident, was critically injured from the impact of the crash. She died less than an hour later at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn.
Pocina was taken into custody without incident by Berwyn police, assisted by the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, at the home of his uncle in Oakbrook.
“We developed information that he may have been hiding in his uncle’s condo in Oakbrook,” Kushner said. “We made surveillance of the building and the unit itself, and found that even when the resident left, there was evidence someone else was still in there.”
When police knocked on the door and announced the warrant, Kushner said, “[Pocina] was standing there in a suit and tie and surrendered peacefully and without incident.”
According to Kushner, Pocina’s uncle was also present at the time of the arrest and has been cooperative with authorities. Pocina, who has no history of prior arrests, did not give police a statement.
Kushner said there is no evidence drugs or alcohol played a role in the crash, which happened at 5:45 a.m. on March 3. One eyewitness reported seeing the SUV speeding westbound on Windsor Avenue before jumping an earth berm and, without brakes ever being applied, plowing into the brick wall of the train station.
The witness said that the driver staggered out of the vehicle and initially sat down amid the rubble of the station. Before police could respond to the scene, however, the driver had fled the scene.
Police said they initially had some phone contact with the driver, and that they were told he would surrender that day. That never happened, prompting police to step up efforts to find the vehicle’s owner.
Both the BNSF and Metra commuter rail service in the weeks following the crash, announced separate $5,000 rewards for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the driver of the SUV.