Elkhart woman gets probation, jail for incident that left Cass County motorcyclist seriously injured

Published 2:55 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

CASSOPOLIS – An Elkhart woman in the country illegally was sentenced Friday in Cass County Circuit Court for causing an accident that injured a local resident.

Petra Lopez-Torres, 49, of Elkhart, pleaded guilty to attempted reckless driving causing serious impairment of body function and was sentenced to two years’ probation, 60 days jail with credit for two days served and $2,418 in fines and costs. No restitution was ordered as there is ongoing civil litigation.

The incident occurred June 14 at Elkhart Road and May Street in Edwardsburg. Cass County Circuit Court Mark Herman reported that Lopez-Torres was driving to work at the Brothers Bakery in Edwardsburg when she pulled out in front of a motorcycle and struck it.

Motorcyclist David Whalen was badly injured in the accident and was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He spent a month and a half in the intensive care unit, had to have his leg amputated and lost his peripheral vision.

“This case is an absolute tragedy,” Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said. “We understand that the defendant is not an evil person but she was someone who did some terrible acts willfully and wantonly. She is certainly in repeated disregard for the laws of this country. She is not a citizen here. She’s in the country illegally.”

“The bottom line is that her actions were extremely reckless and she disregarded the safety of our citizens,” he added. “The victim in this case will never be the same. He lost his leg, has had significant vision issues and is very literally an iron man with metal throughout his body … It’s a miracle that this man is even alive.”

Defense attorney Joseph Hughes expressed sympathy to the victim but noted that alcohol and drugs weren’t involved.  He said that while it’s true that his client is undocumented, “the undocumented folks are here and we have to find a way to deal with them.” “My client did not intentionally wantonly do this,” he said. “She sincerely regrets that he had to have his leg amputated.”

For her part, Lopez-Torres through an interpreter apologized for the accident she caused.

“I know this was an accident, and I believe that you’re sincere when you say you’re extremely sorry that this happened,” Judge Herman said. “There is a reason why insurance is necessary, and you need to understand that. I feel that if there is no additional consequence, there’s no incentive for you to carry insurance in the future.”