9 years for Sophie Allen’s killer is a rare example of consequences for a hit-and-run

Sophie Allen
Sophie Allen

Update 1/5/23, 5:00 PM: Sophie Allen’s family provided the following statement. “We want to thank the Wrigleyville community that has supported us and helped in the successful arrest and prosecution of the individual who killed Sophie. We are so very grateful for the outpouring of support from strangers who stood silently in unity for a wonderful human being. We appreciate the Chicago Police Department for their successful apprehension of the culprit and for the judicial process that ensured justice was served.”

It’s extremely unusual for hit-and-run perpetrators to be arrested in Chicago, let alone for them to face jail time for their actions. So it’s notable that the repeat DUI offender who fatally struck cancer survivor Sophie Allen, 27, last year and heartlessly fled the scene without rendering aid has been sentenced to nine years in prison. However, he will likely only serve half of that time.

Allen’s case was particularly tragic because shortly before the crash she had been given a new lease on life, only to have it stolen from her. She completed her breast cancer treatment in June 2021, and was engaged to be married. A native of Cary, North Carolina, she had relocated to Orlando to be with her fiance. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself at 26, so that was pretty life-changing,” she said in an interview with WRAL News Raleigh. “I just finished the hardest part. I am looking forward to getting back to life.”

The following month Allen celebrated by flying to Chicago to visit her friend Nahiomy Alvarez, 28. On Saturday, August 14 at about 12:30 p.m., the women were walking on Addison Street in the Wrigleyville neighborhood after taking a photo of Wrigley Field.

That’s when Brett Dimick, now 31, was fleeing a prior collision at a Shell station at the southwest corner of Addison and Halsted streets in a BMW X3 SUV. He sped west on Addison, ran a stop sign at Kenmore Avenue, and then made a sharp southbound left turn onto Fremont, striking Allen and Alvarez in the crosswalk. Allen was pronounced dead on the scene, while her friend suffered minor injuries. Dimick and a passenger fled on foot and were captured by a security camera.

Despite police having this footage and the vehicle, it was months before they made an arrest. Within days of the killing, multiple people on social media identified the driver as Dimick, co-owner of Hideaway Chicago, a now-closed pizzeria and bar in Lincoln Park. He had previously been convicted of DUIs and drug offenses, and had his license revoked in 2009. The commenters expressed frustration that Dimick was still at large.

Brett Dimick
Brett Dimick

Finally on December 13, 2021, police announced that Dimick had been apprehended and charged with a felony count of reckless homicide, plus felony counts of failure to report a crash resulting in an injury and a death.

More than a year later on December 22, Dimick pleaded guilty to all counts, a spokesperson for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office told Streetsblog, citing court records. Presiding judge Michael Clancy sentenced the offender to six years for each crash resulting in an injury or death charge, served concurrently, plus three years for the homicide charge. Under Illinois law, he will probably be required to serve half his nine-year sentence, 4.5 years.

Dimick was given 375 days credit for time served, the spokesperson said. The judge also recommended that he undergo addiction treatment in prison. He’s now incarcerated in Joliet’s Stateville Correctional Center.

Alvarez told Streetsblog she feels she feels the sentence is insufficient. “Dimick happened to be represented by very expensive attorneys from Breen & Pugh — a firm that other attorneys have called the ‘best criminal defense shop in town.’ Many people including myself have wondered about the outcome of this case had he been in a different socioeconomic class. It seems like every day in Chicago so many people get more time for doing less than he’s been doing for over a decade.”

Alvarez added that she’s frustrated that Dimick’s passenger, who also fled the scene without regard for Allen’s life, is not facing charges. “Our criminal justice system does not seem to have the ability to hold that person accountable. What message does that send to the public?”

Flowers placed around lit candles and a photo of Sophie during a vigil at the crash site in August 2021. Photo: Courtney Cobbs

“I am cynical about the criminal justice system’s ability and interest in making sure drivers who injure or kill people are punished,” said attorney Brendan Kevenides from FK Law, a personal injury firm specializing in pedestrian and bike crash cases (and a Streetsblog sponsor.) “It strikes me first as a little surprising that he will serve any jail time at all.  That is a positive I suppose. On the other hand, it is tragic and disappointing that he will serve such little time for this despicable act.  The criminal justice system, and our city as a whole, needs to take more seriously harm to vulnerable road users caused by reckless drivers.”

Read Sophie Allen’s obituary, written by family members, here.

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