Trucker Facing Decades In Prison For Crash That Killed 4 People Has Disappeared
Madison County, Illinois – A new arrest warrant has been issued for a truck driver authorities say is a “fugitive” from justice.
Mohamed Yussuf Jama, 55, of Colorado, has failed to show for numerous scheduled court appearances stemming from charges filed against him as a result of an November 21, 2017 accident that claimed the lives of 4 people.
Jama was charged in April 2018 by the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office with four counts of reckless homicide and eight counts of aggravated reckless driving.
If convicted on the charges, Jama could face more than 70 years in prison.
Following his arrest, Jama was held on $150,000 bond, but bonded out with a $15,000 deposit.
One of the conditions of the bond required him to appear at all court hearings.
However, according to both his employer at the time of the crash, Ohio-based Forward Air Freight Solutions, Inc. (FAF), and his legal counsel, Jama has simply disappeared.
After several continuances, Jama’s criminal trial was set for December 10, 2018.
According to court records, Jama failed to appear.
In response, Madison County prosecutor Crystal Uhe filed a motion for bail bond forfeiture and it was granted on January 3, 2019.
Jama was given 30 days to appear and move to vacate the bail forfeiture.
According to a Februay 11, 2019 order, Jama again failed to appear within the allowed 30 days.
Michael J. Mettes, who was representing Jama at the time, filed a motion on February 20, 2019 to withdraw as counsel.
“(The) defendant has failed to contact counsel for over six months, despite repeated efforts by counsel to contact defendant by telephone and U.S. mail,” Mettes wrote to the court.
“All correspondence to defendant at all known addresses has been returned as undeliverable.”
Jama’s last known addresses were in Colorado, Ohio, and Texas, according to court records.
A recent report by the Madison Record indicates FAF has no idea where Jama is either.
According to the report, attorney Brenda Schlichtig is representing Jama and FAF in numerous civil lawsuits stemming from the crash.
Schlicthtig said FAF has sent letters to all known addresses for Jama requesting he appear in civil court proceedings, but “all get returned.”
“They have not been able to find him,” she was quoted as saying.
The fatal crash occurred on November 21, 2017 along southbound I-55 at approximately 6:15 p.m.
Illinois State Police (ISP) investigators say Jama was operating a 2016 Cascadia Freightliner tractor-trailer when he failed to slow in a construction zone for stopped traffic.
Jama then collided into the rear of a mid-size passenger car setting off a chain reaction crash involving 6 other passenger vehicles.
The crash killed 20-year-old Tori Carroll of Alhambra; 20-year-old Hailey Bertels and her 17-year-old sister, Madisen Bertels of Staunton, who were occupants in the car.
Also killed was 19-year-old Vivian Vu of Joplin, MO, who was traveling in a 2016 Chevrolet Express van along with other Missouri Southern State University students.
The students were returning from an academic conference in Chicago at the time of the deadly crash.
Eleven others also sustained injuries, according to ISP.
Following the crash, a flurry of civil lawsuits were filed by the estates of Carroll, Vu and the Bertels.
Named as defendants were Jama, FAF and the construction contractor, Keller Construction.
Carroll’s lawsuit alleges Jama may have been using a cell phone or another electronic device at the time of the crash.
However, ISP’s investigation did not conclude this to be true.
According to ISP, Jama was negligent for the crash because he was “traveling at a speed which was greater than reasonable and proper, with regard to existing traffic conditions and the safety of persons properly upon the roadway.”
Additionally, ISP concluded Jama “failed to reduce speed appropriately, due to the traffic conditions in the construction zone, to avoid colliding with multiple vehicles within the construction zone.”
Civil Suit Updates
Carroll’s estate reached a settlement in June 2019 on its lawsuit.
The Bertel’s estate also reached a settlement in June 2019, but just with Keller Construction.
It’s lawsuit is still ongoing against Jama and FAF.
As for Vu’s estate, a settlement was reached in April 2019 with Jama and FAF, but litigation is proceeding against Keller Construction.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) will continue to monitor new developments.
(Photos shared courtesy of Madison County Jail/ISP)
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