Driver gets 9 years for killing UIC doctoral student — while on parole for fleeing and eluding

A man has pleaded guilty to striking and killing a UIC student who was walking to class in November 2020 while allegedly driving at twice the speed limit — and while on parole for aggravated fleeing and eluding.

Prosecutors said Kenneth Clay sped through the school’s campus, ran a red light, collided with a car, struck two UIC students, kept driving, bailed out, ran onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, and eventually hid under a bus at the Chicago Greyhound terminal.

“I didn’t do none of that,” Clay, 33, said during a bond hearing days after the crash that killed 27-year-old doctoral candidate Tushar Sharma and injured another student on the 1100 block of South Morgan.

Kenneth Clay in 2019 and Tushar Sharma | CPD; GoFundMe

According to the allegations, UIC police tried to pull a speeding gray SUV over after they saw it run a stop sign on Morgan Street around 10:24 a.m. on November 5, 2020. The SUV continued speeding while police followed it with their squad car lights activated.

The speeding car blew a red light at Morgan and Roosevelt, colliding with a white truck that crossed into the intersection. The speeding SUV spun, hit a light pole, then continued driving northbound on the sidewalk, where it struck Sharma and the other student.

Sharma, who suffered head trauma and other injuries, was pronounced dead about 30 minutes after the collision. The other student suffered a broken arm and abrasions to his face and head.

Prosecutors said a “black box” in the crashed SUV indicated it was traveling 63 MPH when it hit the truck. The local speed limit is 30 MPH.

Prosecutors said the SUV’s driver drove onto the grass, hit a concrete picnic table, crawled out of the driver’s side window, ran past the two downed men, and dashed into a UIC building.

When police approached him inside the building, the driver ran across campus, jumped onto the Dan Ryan Expressway, and headed to the Greyhound station. Cops arrested Clay after they found him lying under a bus at the terminal.

Prosecutors charged him with reckless homicide, unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, leaving the scene of an accident involving injury or death, aggravated fleeing, possession of cannabis with intent to distribute, aggravated battery, and traffic violations.

According to Illinois Department of Corrections records, he was released from prison on March 30 after serving one year of a two-year sentence that he received for aggravated fleeing causing more than $300 in property damage.

Last week, according to court records, Clay pleaded guilty to four felony counts: reckless homicide, failure to report an accident involving death, failure to report an accident involving injury, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Judge Ursula Walowski merged the four charges into a nine-year sentence, records show.

Clay will receive 488 days credit for time spent in custody before sentencing. His parole date has not been set.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com