Family of killed Downers Grove teen attends suspect’s court hearing

By Kevin Beese Staff writer

Downers Grove North volleyball player Beth Dunlap shares high-fives with teammates during a game. A car struck and killed Dunlap on Feb. 19. The driver of that car, suspected of drunken driving, appeared in court Friday. (Downers Grove North Athletics photo)

Sue Dunlap held up a photo book with her granddaughter’s picture on it as the man accused of taking her granddaughter’s life entered a DuPage County courtroom.

Wearing a red #BETHSTRONG T-shirt, Dunlap used a tissue to wipe a tear from her eye as Joseph Kucharski made his way Friday morning before Judge Liam Brennan to face charges in the February accident that killed her granddaughter, Beth Dunlap, a Downers Grove North student.

Kucharski, 51, of Naperville, has been charged with nine counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and two counts of aggravated reckless driving in connection with the Feb. 19 accident that killed 17-year-old Beth Dunlap at Main and Grant streets in Downers Grove.

Kucharski entered a plea of “not guilty” through his attorney Jay Fuller to the charges during his court appearance. He was being held in DuPage County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bond.

He is next scheduled to appear in court April 29.

If convicted, Kucharski could spend up to 14 years in prison.

According to Downers Grove police, Beth Dunlap, a junior at Downer Grove North, was crossing Main Street at Grant Street within the marked crosswalk and with the “Walk” signal at 10:55 a.m. Feb. 19 when struck by a southbound vehicle.

Joseph Kucharski

Police said Kucharski crossed into the oncoming lanes and entered the intersection on a red light.

As Kucharski left the courtroom Friday in an orange jail jumpsuit, Sue Dunlap shook the photo book at him from the audience.

“I wanted him to see who he took,” she said after Kucharski’s court appearance.

Dunlap and four other family members met with Assistant State’s Attorney Kristin Johnston in a courthouse hallway following the court appearance for a briefing on the case and the next steps. When the briefing concluded, Dunlap hugged Johnston and thanked her for advocating on her granddaughter’s behalf.

“We need to be Beth’s voice,” Dunlap said as to why the family members attended the court hearing. “We want to see that justice is served.”

She said when someone is inebriated at 11 a.m. and causes a fatal accident “he should seriously pay for that action.”

“We have been living a nightmare,” Dunlap said of the month since her granddaughter’s death. “We have had enough pain for a lifetime. It still feels like she is going to walk in the door and come back to us.”

Cheryl Murphy said that her cousin loved music and was an outstanding volleyball player and student, and someone who was always happy.

“At 17, she had probably done more already than any of us have done in our lifetimes,” Sue Dunlap said.

She added that the family has been encouraged by stories from fellow Downers Grove North students, telling them about Beth befriending them when they were sitting alone having lunch and other acts of kindness.

Beth’s parents are starting a fund in their daughter’s honor to cover the travel volleyball fees for girls who cannot afford to play the sport.

Donations to the Beth Dunlap 18 Fund can be made at any Chase Bank location.

Like and follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Instagram

Follow us on Twitter