A Will County judge this morning dismissed charges against a woman whose party-game punch killed a man who had accepted $5 to be struck once in the face.
Tiffany Startz, 22, had been on trial charged with reckless conduct and battery, accused of punching John Powell, 25, in the face at a Crest Hill party last fall. The house party was held to celebrate the life of a woman who had committed suicide.
Today Judge Edward Burmila dismissed the case, saying that Startz was negligent but not reckless.
Burmila also found, citing expert witness testimony, that the force of the punch, which did not leave a bruise, had not killed Powell. He said the "impulse" or change in momentum, caused an artery in his neck to burst.
But outside the Joliet courthouse after Burmila’s ruling, Powell’s mother Theresa Guy was deeply upset, wiping away tears as she said she would pursue civil lawsuits against those involved in her son’s death.
“She got away with murder,” Guy said of Startz.
In their first public statement since charges were filed, Startz’s father Tim Startz called Powell’s death “tragic.”
“This is a horrible, tragic incident,” he said. “We would like to express our condolences to John Powell’s family and friends.”
A spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney said their office was concerned about the message the judge’s decision would send.
“She threw a punch she shouldn’t have thrown and as a result of that a young man is dead,” said spokesman Charles Pelkie.