After a three week investigation, Berwyn police announced Thursday that they have charged a Riverside man with two felonies in connection with a March 3 crash that killed a 58-year-old Riverside woman.
Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner announced on March 23 that after a witness identified him in a lineup, Stephen J. Pocina, 44, of Riverside, was charged with reckless homicide and failure to report a fatal accident.
Reckless homicide is a Class 3 felony, punishable for between two and five years in prison, if convicted. Failure to report a fatal accident is a more serious Class 2 felony, punishable for between three and seven years, if convicted.
“He’s looking at some significant jail time,” Kushner said.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Gregory Ginex set Pocina’s bond at $750,000 at a hearing Friday morning at the Maybrook courthouse in Maywood. Pocina’s lawyer posted the required bond after the hearing.
One of the requirements of the bond was that Pocina surrender his passport and restrict travel to Cook and DuPage counties, since he is considered a flight risk. Pocina’s next court date was set for March 29 at Maybrook.
Kushner added that if Berwyn police can prove anyone actively aided or helped conceal Pocina from police, they would seek obstruction charges.
Since the time of crash police have repeatedly announced they were interested in questioning Pocina, who is the owner of the SUV involved in the crash.
Police arrested Pocina March 22 in Oakbrook after obtaining an arrest warrant from the Cook County State’s Attorney.
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 in 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, has not given 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 a lawyer for Pocina, and were told he would surrender that day. That never happened, prompting police to step up efforts to find the vehicle’s owner.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Kushner said of the three-week investigation. “There was perception on the part of some of the public that we weren’t doing anything or were intentionally concealing his identity. But we were working virtually around the clock since the accident.”