Three months after former marine and aspiring chef Hector Avalos was killed on his bicycle by allegedly drunk driver Robert Vais, the criminal case against Vais is slowly moving forward.
On December 6, Avalos, 28, was biking back to the Southwest Side after leaving his job as a cook at a Mexican restaurant in River North. On the 2500 block of West Ogden in Douglas Park, he was struck from behind by Vais, 54, an administrator at Stroger Hospital, driving a van. Avalos was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital shortly afterwards. Tests found Vais had a blood alcohol content of .118, well above the legal limit of .08. He is charged with a felony aggravated DUI and two misdemeanor DUI charges.
Judge James Brown originally presided over the case. Due to a possible conflict of interest between the defense and the judge, the defense filed for a substitution of the judge, according to victim advocate Sharon Johnson from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. The new judge is Nicholas Ford.
A status hearing for the case took place yesterday at the Cook County Courthouse, 26th and California, Johnson said. 12 Avalos family supporters attended.
The Chicago Police Department’s Major Accidents Investigation Unit is currently working on reconstructing the events of the crash. Johnson expects the process will take at least six months. “This kind of lab work takes forever,” she said. Although there were many people on the scene shortly after Vais struck Avalos, there do not seem to have been any witnesses. The State’s Attorney’s office is going to search for video footage of the crash.
The State’s Attorney has filed for an administrative revocation of Vais’ license through the Secretary of State’s Office. “It’s rare to get your license back before a long time after revocation,” Johnson said. Avalos’ family has filed a civil suit against Vais via their council Vrdolyak Law Group.
Johnson put Avalos’ girlfriend Cristina Valencia in touch with Catherine Bullard, girlfriend of Robert “Bobby” Cann, who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver in Old Town last May. “It’s sad that something like this would bring these two young women together, but at least they have someone who understands their situation, so they can support each other,” Johnson said.