Driver who killed bicyclist in West Loop crash gets six years

Bertucci

CHICAGO — A Joliet woman who killed a bicyclist when she swerved into his path in the West Loop last spring has been sentenced to six years, according to state records.

Courtney Bertucci, 31, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and failing to report an accident involving injury or death, records show. She received five years for reckless homicide and one consecutive year for failure to report from Judge Charles Burns.

Paresh Chhatrala, a 42-year-old software developer, was heading west in the 900 block of West Madison when an oncoming driver swerved into his lane around 10:13 p.m. on April 16, 2022, a Chicago Police Department report said. Officials said the collision sent Chhatrala flying into the air before he crashed to the pavement, suffering significant head injuries.

A witness told investigators she may have swerved to avoid a metal construction plate in the road, a Chicago police report said. Chhatrala succumbed to his injuries a few days later. Family members said three people received Paresh’s donated organs in the days after his death.

“The comfort of having a friend may be taken away, but not that of having had one,” friends of Chhatrala wrote in a GoFundMe campaign shortly after his death. Their efforts raised $41,201 for his surviving family members.

Paresh Chhatrala | GoFundMe

Bertucci left the scene, but witnesses found her car in the 100 block of North Aberdeen and detained Bertucci as she tried to walk away, prosecutors said. Chicago police officers said they found Chhatrala’s bike lodged under the front end of Bertucci’s Volkswagen Jetta.

Prosecutors said police found 2.3 grams of suspected heroin in Bertucci’s car. She was initially charged with operating an uninsured motor vehicle and possessing a controlled substance while Chicago police conducted a detailed investigation of the collision.

But Bertucci skipped bail and went missing less than a month after the crash. The U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force arrested her in suburban Addison last June, Chicago police said at the time. While she was away, prosecutors upgraded the charges against her to include reckless homicide, failure to report an accident involving a death, and possession of a controlled substance. All of those are felonies.

Chattrala’s brother, Parth, said Paresh was planning a trip to visit his family in India after eight years away.

“He was excited to eat food cooked by his mother, hug his brother and enjoy his vacation with his cousins. He was excited to lay his head on his mother’s lap after a long time and just relax. He wanted to start the process of adopting a kid so he could give a child a love and care that a child deserves,” Parth revealed in a Change.org petition that called for upgraded charges against Bertucci.

Following the crash, some West Loop residents and bicycling advocates pointed out that the city spent $400,000 to remove a concrete median from the roadway where Bertucci struck Chhatrala. Cyclists contend that motorists are driving faster and more recklessly since the medians were removed from that stretch of Madison Street.

Bertucci is scheduled to be paroled in March 2025, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.

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