Judge sets bond at $100,000 for alleged hit-and-run driver


Mugshot of Lakeesha Smith, 33, of McKnight Street. Smith is being charged in the death of Tundun Lawani ’14. (Courtesy of the Knox County Jail)

Updated: 10:10 p.m. Wednesday

A Knox County judge set bond at $100,000 for Galesburg resident Lakeesha D. Smith, who is charged with the hit-and-run death of Knox junior Tundun Lawani.

Smith, 33, of McKnight Street, was arrested Sunday afternoon and charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of a fatality and two counts of aggravated DUI in connection with the incident.

If convicted, she faces up to 30 years in prison and additional fines.

She made her first appearance before Circuit Judge James B. Stewart Monday over a video feed from the Knox County Jail. She was dressed in orange, jail-issued scrubs and gave the judge only short, yes and no answers.

Smith was arrested Sunday several hours after the fatal incident, which occurred around 3:30 a.m. Police used Knox surveillance footage to identify her blue 1997 Ford Taurus, prosecutors said.

Smith told investigators she had been drinking between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Her blood-alcohol level was .072 nearly four hours after the incident, according to police records.

“Upon questioning, she admitted she was driving, but did not stop because she was scared and the vehicle was not insured,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Elisa Tanner, who recommended bond be set at $200,000.

Under Illinois law, a motorist can be arrested for DUI any time their blood-alcohol level is over .05 — even though the legal limit is .08. In those cases, prosecutors must prove the suspect was at one point driving drunk, Tanner said.
Smith had no prior record of DUI, but was cited twice in 2006 for driving with a revoked license, according to Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker.

In Galesburg, Smith was arrested for aggravated battery in 2003 and disorderly conduct this past April, according to police records. At the time of the incident, she was on probation for a retail theft in Peoria County in 2010. She was also convicted of check fraud in Peoria County in 2005.

Smith declined her right to a public defender until at least her next hearing.

“My dad has an attorney up in Chicago, but he said he needs to know more about the case first,” a woman who identified herself as Smith’s sister told the judge.
At least six of Smith’s family and friends sat near the front of the courtroom. Several Knox students also attended the hearing.

Smith must post $10,000 to be released from jail. Her next court appearance is set for Monday, Nov. 5 at 9 a.m.

“This is a terrible tragedy not only for the victim, but for the defendant, too. Both families are going to be grieving from this for a long time,” Tanner told The Knox Student Wednesday.

Tags:  Campus Safety DUI fatal accident felony Galesburg Police Department hit-and-run Knox Knox College Lakeesha Smith Tundun Lawani

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Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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