Sean Woulfe, an Orland Park man who pleaded guilty in July to five counts of reckless homicide for a 2017 car accident that killed a pregnant woman and her three children, was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison.
Will County Judge Daniel Rippy said Woulfe’s sentence would be two years for each of the victims, including the unborn baby, but the sentences would be served concurrently.
Woulfe pleaded guilty in July to reckless homicide for causing a 2017 car accident at Corning Road and Yates Avenue in Beecher. Lindsey Schmidt, who was pregnant at the time, was driving her children to vacation Bible school when the crash occurred. Her 19-month-old son, Kaleb, was pronounced dead at the scene. Schmidt’s sons Weston, 4, and Owen, 6, died days later.
Prosecutors said Woulfe was driving 83 to 84 mph within the seconds that led up to the crash and disregarded a stop sign.
Woulfe, who has been in custody since July, sat during most of the sentencing hearing with his head down standing to make a statement before the judge handed down the sentence.
“From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry,” Woulfe said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about this.”
Woulfe said he took full responsibility for the speed he was traveling and disregarding the stop sign.
A mistrial was declared last March after the jury could not come to a unanimous verdict. Woulfe said in July he did not want to put Edward Schmidt, Lindsey Schmidt’s husband and the father of the children, through another trial, so he pleaded guilty against the advice of his attorney.
Defense attorney George Lenard, who plans to appeal the sentence, argued for probation.
He said Woulfe is remorseful and has been respectful to the court. He said of the thousands of defendants he has represented, no one has avoided a trial out of respect to the victims’ families.
Lenard said Woulfe did not have a prior criminal history, has led a law-abiding life and never intended to cause a fatal car accident. Woulfe was not on his cellphone and did not have drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash, Lenard said. After the accident, Woulfe asked first responders how the passengers in Schmidt’s vehicle were doing, showing concern, Lenard told Rippy.
Edward Schmidt, the husband and father of the victims, settled a civil suit against Woulfe in 2018 for $300,000.
The Rev. Frank Italiano, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Crete, told the court he had known Lindsey Schmidt for more than 24 years.
“I can truly say this world was a better place because Lindsey was in it,” Italiano said.
Italiano read a statement on behalf of Lindsey’s mother, Tammy Riechers.
“What you have done to me and my family is unforgivable,” the statement said. “I cannot get them back.”
Lindsey was a loving and beautiful daughter, wife, mother and friend, Italiano read. Kaleb was a sweet boy who did not get to celebrate his second birthday. Weston was happy to attend vacation Bible school that day and Owen loved school and his friends and had a bright future.
Prosecutor Adam Capelli gave Rippy an impact statement from Edward Schmidt’s mother, which she requested the judge to read in private.
Rippy told Woulfe he expects Woulfe to live every day of his life honoring the victims’ memories.
Rippy acknowledged the case was one of the most difficult he’s ever heard and no words can assuage the families’ anguish. He said no one woke up that morning expecting the actions that unfolded and he sees people everyday speeding when they shouldn’t be.
Rippy said he took into consideration Woulfe’s lack of criminal history, but told him that it was his decision and his actions of rushing to work that caused the accident.
He said although probation was an option, he believed it was appropriate for Woulfe to serve two years in the Department of Corrections.
Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.