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Plea nets probation for driver in fatal crash

Matthew Loiacano

Matthew Loiacano

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Updated: February 24, 2013 6:23AM

Britt Steinhoff’s twin boys were championship swimmers who played together, laughed together and cared for their goldfish. The Island Lake woman envisioned her twins arguing over a car when they both turned 16.

She will never see that happen because the twins were torn apart forever in a fatal car crash that took the life of Griffin Shirey, 10. His twin, Nicholas, survived and has since recovered from injuries suffered in the Dec. 12, 2011, crash.

“In a second, my Griffin was taken and Nick was in the hospital. The pain is indescribable,” Steinhoff said.

Matthew Loiacano of Wisconsin pleaded guilty to one count of reckless homicide for the crash. Loiacano, 30, formerly of Antioch, could have spent two to five years in prison, according to prosecutors Robert Money and Ken LaRue.

Instead, Loiacano will spend 30 months on probation, 12 months in periodic imprisonment and perform 200 hours of public service. His driver’s license also will be revoked.

He was scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in Lake County Circuit Court, but took the plea deal instead through his attorney, Lawrence Wade.

The twins were in the back seat of a vehicle driven by their father, Scott Shirey who was southbound on Route 12 making a left turn onto Old McHenry Road, south of Wauconda, during rush hour. Loiacano was reaching for gum while driving a nine-ton truck. He was 45 feet away from the red light, but failed to stop and hit Shirey’s Lincoln Continental, LaRue said.

“It’s hard to imagine a situation more heart-breaking than this for the young boy’s family, for his mom, dad, his twin brother. It just doesn’t get sadder than this,” Judge Christopher Stride said.

Steinhoff read a victim impact statement at Tuesday’s court hearing talking about her son. When she was finished, she accepted a hug from Loiacano’s mother, who was also present at the hearing.

Stride noted that hug and called Steinhoff a woman of compassion.

“It’s a blessing dealing with a woman like (Steinhoff). These are gifts, I hope you (Loiacano) recognize that and put this behind you in a way that’s healthy,” Stride said.

Steinhoff said after the hearing that she hoped this accident taught people to be honest about their actions. She said it was her understanding that the three people inside the truck at the time of the accident blamed each other.

Wade had planned to present evidence that another driver, who had three prior DUIs, was driving the truck the night of the crash.

“The most horrifying aspect ... is they pointed fingers at each other,” Steinhoff said.

“I am glad it’s over. Nothing would bring Griffin back. I just hope people think about this and think when they’re driving and think about the lives that can be destroyed.”

The twins’ father, Shirey, 50, was driving under the influence of cannabis at the time of the accident. He pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI in October.

Shirey was sentenced to 30 months probation, to perform 200 hours of public service and to pay $6,000 in restitution for medical bills, according to court records. Shirey was also sentenced to 180 days in the custody of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, to be stayed pending his compliance, according to court records.

Loiacano will be remanded into custody Monday to begin serving his sentence of periodic imprisonment. He will be transitioned into electronic home monitoring after three months, LaRue said.

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