Drunk driver killed former Marine sergeant on Stevenson Expressway, prosecutors say

Octavio Lara Chavez and Nikolas Hutto (Cook County sheriff’s office, GoFundMe)

CHICAGO — Last summer, Nikolas Hutto moved to Chicago from Florida with plans to marry and buy a home. Friends say that, at the age of 27, he had served four combat tours in the U.S. Marine Corps and “was the embodiment of a perfect son, brother, and friend.”

Hutto was killed on April 7 as he changed a flat tire on the Stevenson Expressway near Cicero Avenue. Prosecutors say a drunk driver struck the disabled car, which slammed into Hutto and one of his friends, who was visiting from Florida. The friend, also a 27-year-old man, suffered a broken leg but survived.

Illinois State Police troopers arrived at the crash scene just before 7 p.m. They found a Dodge pickup rolled over and a black Hyundai with Florida plates—the car Hutto was repairing.

Witnesses told troopers they saw the pickup swerve from the middle lane to the shoulder, where it crashed into the Hyundai. Octavio Lara Chavez, 40, was driving the truck, prosecutors say.

Taken to a hospital for relatively minor injuries, Lara Chavez had bloodshot, glassy eyes and admitted to drinking two beers, according to his arrest report. He refused to take a breath test or have blood drawn for alcohol testing, the report said.

But hospital staff had already drawn blood as they treated him. Taken an hour after the crash, the blood sample came back with an alcohol level of .162, twice the legal limit, according to the report.

Prosecutors charged Lara Chavez with aggravated DUI causing death, aggravated DUI causing bodily injury, and driving on a suspended license. Judge Maryam Ahmad granted the state’s detention petition.

Lara Chavez’s defense team appealed Ahmad’s decision almost immediately. In paperwork seeking to have her decision overturned, his attorneys argued that he has no history of criminal behavior and no previous alcohol-related offenses.

While the crash is “tragic,” the appeal says, prosecutors presented no evidence that it was intentional.

Countering the state’s argument that Lara Chavez had been cited four times for driving without a license since coming to the United States 19 years ago, defense lawyers conceded that he may have “a difficulty in complying with Illinois’s licensure requirements,” but that does not mean he is dangerous and needs to be kept in jail.

Their appeal is pending.

As of Thursday morning, a GoFundMe campaign to help Hutto’s family with travel, funeral, and memorial expenses had raised more than $22,000.

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About Tim Hecke 300 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com