A Romeoville woman admitted she had been drinking when she fatally struck a motorist — the longtime boyfriend of a well-known Chicago jazz singer — as he stood on the shoulder of Mannheim Road after his car ran out of gas, according to Cook County prosecutors and family friends.
Sheryl Perry, 21, was charged with aggravated DUI involving a death, a felony, and ticketed for failure to avoid a pedestrian, driving an uninsured vehicle and illegal transport of alcohol. Judge Edward Harmening set bond Monday at $200,000 for Perry, who has no criminal background.
The victim, Marek Bajson, 49, was on his way to meet a friend early Saturday before a ski trip to Colorado when his car ran out of gas and he pulled to the shoulder in the 5800 block of North Mannheim Road, just east of O'Hare International Airport.
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- 5800 Mannheim Road, Chicago, IL 60018, USA
- 2000 Sutcliffe Drive, Illinois and Michigan Canal, Romeoville, IL 60446, USA
"He'd called his friend and was waiting for him to bring some gas," said Zbigniew Banas, a longtime friend.
Prosecutors said Perry was southbound on Mannheim in a 2004 Chrysler when she tried to pass a slower-moving vehicle and swerved into the shoulder, striking Bajson's car and then him. The impact propelled Bajson more than 30 feet. He died at the scene.
Assistant State's Attorney Joell Zahr said Perry's friend had been following the Chrysler at the time and witnessed the crash. Her windshield shattered, Perry stopped at the scene, Zahr said. Perry, a veterinary technician at a south suburban clinic, smelled strongly of alcohol and admitted consuming alcohol but refused to take a breath test at the scene, according to an arrest report.
Bajson came to Chicago with his girlfriend, Grazyna Auguscik, both natives of Poland, nearly two decades ago and for years has been a behind-the scenes force in her burgeoning career, handling publicity through his Chicago design firm, friends said. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bajson seemed much younger than his age, loved outdoor activities and could discuss artsy movies for hours.
"He was the personification of living in the moment, always upbeat, smiling, looking at the bright side of things," said Anna Sobor, who got to know the couple at the many "movie nights" they organized at their summer home in New Buffalo, Mich.
Banas said Bajson was still trying to find outlets for his own artistic expressions but was thrilled at the accomplishments of his longtime companion.
"He would talk about music and concerts incessantly," Banas said. "He loved being with her and was finding her success to be his success as well."
Known for fusing eastern European folkloric music with all-American jazz, Auguscik is famous overseas and has a significant following among Chicago jazz enthusiasts. When she learned of Bajson's death, Auguscik was performing at a series of concerts in Warsaw, according to Banas.
Auguscik is scheduled to return to Chicago next week to complete funeral arrangements, Banas said.