PAXTON — A rural Paxton man charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with a 2016 head-on crash that killed a 19-year-old woman could possibly enter a plea in the long-delayed case next month.
Thomas T. Hoekstra, 27, appeared Monday morning in Ford County Circuit Court with his attorney, Frank A. Astrella of Joliet. At the start of the court hearing, Astrella met privately for about 15 minutes with State’s Attorney Andrew Killian and Judge Matt Fitton in the judge’s chambers for a "402 conference" to work out a plea agreement to avoid having the case go to trial.
While no agreement could immediately be reached, Fitton set another hearing for 11 a.m. March 12 for what he called a "possible plea."
If no plea is entered on that date, further court dates will be set, along with deadlines for any additional motions to be filed, Fitton said. In November, Hoekstra’s trial was tentatively set for April 8.
Hoekstra is charged with one count of reckless homicide, a Class 3 felony, and two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, a Class 2 felony, in connection with the Aug. 1, 2016, accident that killed Kourtni Sue "Suzy" Elizabeth Eastman of Paxton and left three others injured.
If convicted, Hoekstra faces a sentence ranging from probation to up to 14 years in state prison.
The crash occurred on U.S. 45 near Ford County Road 200 North, just south of Paxton. Police said Hoekstra’s southbound van apparently crossed the center line and collided head-on with a northbound car. Miss Eastman, the car’s front-seat passenger, later was pronounced dead at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
Hoekstra allegedly failed field-sobriety tests at the scene, and an emergency blood draw showed his BAC was 0.152 — above the legal limit of 0.08.