Jail time for Riverside man who killed bicyclist

A Riverside man who struck and killed a bicyclist while driving home from an office Christmas party in December 2013 will spend 100 days in Cook County Jail and serve two years of supervised release.

Judge Nicholas Ford sentenced Robert Vais, 56, during a hearing at the George N. Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago on Nov. 17. Vais had pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated driving under the influence on Sept. 16.

Vais, an executive at John J. Stroger Hospital and an employee of the hospital since 1982, could have faced up to 14 years in prison for killing 28-year-old Hector Avalos.

It was about midnight on Dec. 7, 2013 when Vais was driving his Ford van westbound in the 2500 block of Ogden Avenue. Avalos, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, was riding his bicycle home from his shift as a cook at El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria when he was struck near a viaduct by Vais’ van.

Vais was active in coaching local youth sports and has deep ties to Morton College, where he is the longtime president of the Morton College Athletic Association and where his father, Henry J. Vais, was the founder of the Morton College Athletic Association.

Thefts at gas station

Riverside police responded to two separate and unrelated incidents last week where men walked into the Amstar/Minuteman gas station at 3346 Harlem Ave. and left with a case of beverages without paying for them.

The first incident occurred on Nov. 18 about 7:45 a.m. In that case, two men walked into the gas station’s minimart. While one bought a lottery ticket, the other walked back to the cooler, stuck 23 cans of an energy drink into his jacket and left the store.

But police were able to track the man down using license plate information gathered by an employee. On Nov. 19, Riverside police arrested Melvin Harris, 53, of Maywood. He was charged with felony theft due to numerous prior felony convictions, according to police.

He is being held without bond at Cook County jail, awaiting trial.

Then on Nov. 20 about 1:30 p.m., a man walked into the Amstar/Minuteman minimart, headed for the cooler and grabbed a case of beer. Carrying the case of beer with his left hand while covering his face with his right hand, he was last seen running across Harlem Avenue into Berwyn.

Burglary to vehicle

A resident of the 3000 block of Harlem Avenue, Riverside, contacted police to report that during the overnight hours of Nov. 19-20 someone entered her unlocked 2004 Pontiac, which was parked in the rear of the building, and removed a Coach purse valued at $200 and a backpack containing an Apple Macbook laptop computer and college textbooks.

Struck by vehicle

  • Brookfield police responded to the 3400 block of Vernon Avenue on Nov. 20 at about 4:40 p.m. after receiving a report of a vehicle striking a bicyclist.

According to the police report, a 2006 Honda driven by a 27-year-old Naperville woman was westbound on Washington Avenue. A 12-year-old boy on a bicycle was crossing Washington, going northbound on Vernon. The vehicle reportedly struck the rear tire of the bike.

The boy was not injured and police determined that each party was equally at fault and did not issue any citations.

  • A 59-year-old Oak Park woman suffered a leg injury and had to be transported to Loyola University Medical Center after she was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross the street in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard, Brookfield, on Nov. 20 at about 6:40 p.m.

The victim said she couldn’t describe the vehicle, which left the scene, and police said they could not find any other witnesses to the incident.

Video slot machine damaged

North Riverside police were called to Chef Shangri-La on Nov. 20 just before midnight after the restaurant manager was notified by a patron that the screen of a video slot machine had been shattered.

The Wild Mermaid Bonus slot machine, was damaged sometime after 10:30 p.m., according to the police report.

These items were obtained from police reports filed by the Riverside, North Riverside and Brookfield police departments, Nov. 16-22, and represent a portion of the incidents to which police responded. Unless otherwise indicated, anybody named in these reports has only been charged with a crime. These cases have not been adjudicated.

 This story has been changed to correct Robert Vais’ age and the role his father played at Morton College.

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