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Prosecutor Says Rousso May Have Fainted Before Driving into Family

The Lake County State's Attorney's Office says 18-year-old Carly Rousso was high off of "canned air," and may have passed out behind the wheel before crashing into a mother and her three children, killing a 5-year-old girl.

Here's how Ken LaRue, the Lake County State's Attorney's Traffic Division chief, envisions what happened on Central Avenue on Labor Day:

Eighteen-year-old Carly Rousso was driving a Lexus coupe eastbound in Highland Park. Either before she started driving or once she was underway, she grabbed the canister of dusting spray she'd brought along, put it to her nose, pushed down the nozzle and inhaled.

She was instantly filled with a euphoric sensation brought on by a chemical compound in the spray called difluoroethane. Commonly referred to as "huffing," inhaling this compound and others like it causes asyphyxiation that users get high from.

"At some point," LaRue said, "she passed out."

She didn't stop the car as it drifted, first across the lanes going in the opposite the direction. Then, towards the sidewalk by , where a Highland Park mother was walking with her three young children.

'Heavier than air'

That sequence of events is what LaRue believes might what have happened .

"This substance is heavier than air," LaRue said on Wednesday about difluoroethane. "It pushes the air out of your lungs and you just pass out."

Rousso , according to the Lake County State's Attorney's office. She surrendered herself before Judge Raymond Collins Wednesday morning. Hours later, her father posted her $500,00 bond, paying $45,000 in cash ().

She was released at 4:32 p.m. Wednesday.

A wait for charges

LaRue explained that it took longer to charge Rousso than it typically does to charge drivers with DUIs because of the uniqueness of the intoxicating compound.

"Most cases … we charge them right away," LaRue said. "This case, there was no alcohol, no cocaine, no cannabis. That's why it took so long."

It usually takes three months just to test blood for difluoroethane, LaRue said, because many labs in the state lack the equipment necessary to test for it. It also disappears out of the bloodstream after 14 days, which means if Rousso hadn't been blood tested for two weeks after the crash the compound would not have been found at all.

"It's an unusual case," LaRue said.

While awating toxicology results, investigators examined the Lexus that Rousso was driving to make sure no mechanical problems could have been responsible for the collision.

"We needed to make sure the car was in perfect operating order, and it was," LaRue said.

The investigation was a collaborative effort by the and the Major Crash Assistance Team (MCAT), a cooperative unit that comprises specially trained police officers from throughout Lake County. Rousso so that blood and urine samples could be obtained.

The chemical compound found in her system was also listed as an ingredient in in the empty canister of dusting spray found in the Lexus, according to LaRue.

"We have it in her blood," LaRue said, "and we have it correlating with the can." 

An extremely addictive asphyxiant

Sometimes referred to as "canned air," difluoroethane is an asphyxiant that can diminish judgment and cognitive functioning, according to Family Service Executive Director Paul Dean. He's treated substance abusers at Family Service, a counseling agency based in Highland Park. The organization has already offered free counseling to both the Rousso and Sacramento families.

"They are extremely addictive," Dean said about "canned air" compounds, which can be found in hundreds of household products. 

Similar to methamphetamine, "canned air" is inhaled for its euphoric effect, but can also cause extreme anxiety, hallucinations, even cardiac arrhythmia. 

"The longer you use it for, the worse it gets," Dean said.

Someone addicted to "canned air" typically starts with introductory drugs like marijuana, according to Dean. A Chicago Tribune story published Wednesday reported that Rousso at one point participated in a rehab program after she was cited for marijuana possession.

"And then they move to something like this," Dean said.

Bond conditions include no driving, random drug tests

Rousso's bond conditions include a curfew from 9 p.m. till 7 a.m., no driving and no illegal substances, according to Deputy Police Chief Dave Schwarz.

If she's found guilty of aggravated DUI, the statute requires that she serve 85 percent of her sentence, which could be as many as 14 years in prison.

"Unless you are able to show extraordinary circumstances," LaRue said about people found guilty of aggravated DUI, "you're doing prison time."

There are six factors that can be used to charge someone with an aggravated DUI, LaRue explained. Rousso was charged with four of those six, according to the felony warrant obtained by Patch. She was also charged with reckless homicide, which can lead to probation or up to five years in prison if there's a conviction.

"We have to charge every possible charge at the beginning," LaRue said. "Everything that she should be charged with under the statute she's charged with."

Jaclyn is mourned

Jaclyn's . About a hundered people attended the funeral mass, including , , District 112 Superintendent David Behlow, Police Chief Paul Shafer and .

During the bilingual service at Saint James Parish in Highwood, Rev. Thomas Baldonieri called Jaclyn "a joyful child" who enjoyed dressing in pink, like a princess.

"Jaclyn was born and received into loving hands and hearts," Baldonieri said. "Even now, we see just how many people are touched by Jaclyn's life and tragic death, even those who never met her."

Rousso's next court date is on Oct. 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that counselors had already been assigned to both the Rousso and Sacramento families. Patch apologizes for the error.

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ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Anonymous - i'll tell you what wrong with sympathizing with the Rousso family: THEY BROUGHT THIS UPON THEMSELVES AS WELL AS THE VICTIM'S FAMILY!! Don't you get it? For this victims, this situation fell from the sky out of the blue. For the Rousso family, this is a situation that has been 18 years in the making. It didn't just start when Carly got hooked on various things (drinking, drugs, other substances) - it started with the way she was raised since a child. As a standard policy, i do not have sympathy for people who suffer because of their own mistakes.
Evan Kane September 14, 2012 at 04:44 PM
"As a standard policy, i do not have sympathy for people who suffer because of their own mistakes." This is an excellent example of the difference between a fully actualized person with the capacity for empathy and one who is not.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 04:46 PM
@ ebuddha: Question: who was driving the car, Carly or her parents? Were her parents in the car with her? And at what age are they not responsible for her actions? How do you know how she was raised? Who's to say that no one in the Sacramento family has ever driven impaired? Who's to say that they haven't done anything far more sinister? ...all I'm saying is that one family's had a child run over and killed and another family has a daughter who's responsible for the killing - and that's truly all any of us know about either family and that's all that should be said ,so please, unless you have a sixth sense, don't denigrate the Rousso's and the sympathy that's extended to them.
ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Evan - at least we understand each other now. I'll happily take a society where we all help each other out - as long as we're all (a) taking personal responsibility for ourselves (b) contributing in a positive way to the community and (c) not doing harm to others. When someone does harm to themselves or others, the person/people casuing the harm should be dealth with harshly and suffer the consequences. Enough of powder-puffing around the issue. In the words of a t-shirt that was common a decade or so ago: See Dick Drink. See Dick Drive. See Dick Die. DON'T BE A DICK.
ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Anonymous- you ask 'were her parents in the car with her'? they weren't - but they should have been. you ask 'how do i know how she was raised'? simply observe who she is today. you ask 'who is to say that noone in the Sacramento family haven't done anything far more sinister'? I can't believe i'm even going to dignify this with a response, but i'll simply point out that the Sacramento family did not harm anyone in this situation but suffered a great loss that was no fault of their own. Who they are is of nobody's concern until they ruin someone else's life. you conclude with 'do not denigrate the Roussos and the sympathy that's extended to them'. I do not know the Roussos. My comments are not intended to be directed specifically at them, but to discuss the situation in more general terms as a point of discussion for train wrecks that are currently in the making. Nothing can turn back to clock. Carly and her family's story has been written. We can analyze what may have led to this tradegy in the hopes that similar accidents can be avoided. As with most accidents, the follow-up usually reveals fairly obvious events that caused the accident that in hind-sight seem easily avoided. In this case, i think that the signs were probably brewing for a decade. Hopefully this situation gains enough attention that others may see similar situations developing in their family or community and seek to make changes to avoid a similar tradegy in their own lives.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
@ ebuddha: I'm tired of talking about this as I'm sure you are but I want to make sure that you understand where I'm coming from. I'm not accusing the Sacramento's of anything but your putting them on a pedestal because of the death of their daughter while at the same time condemning the Rousso's is driving me crazy. Who are you to say that the Sacramento's don't beat or molest their kids on a daily basis? And I'm not saying that they do!!! I'm just saying that it's possible that they do things that are horrible (and private) while at the same time, it's possible that the Rousso's are great parents w/ nothing more than a very public bad seed as a daughter.
ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Anonymous - most of my comments have been about the 'cause'. I've not mentioned the victims other than to say they did nothing to contribute to the harm done to them (ie had they been jay-walking AND a drunk driver ran them over, one could look at both parties as having been partly to blame). Your perspective does however seem very very very strange. In one breath you say you're not accusing the Sacramento family of anything (GEE, HOW BIG OF YOU); but in the next breath you posit the possibilty that they could beat or molest their children? Why even talk like that - what is the matter with you? Anyone who might have agreed with you that BOTH families deserve sympathy or empathy are now running for the hills. Again you wonder if its possible that the Roussos are great parents with a bad daughter. I'm not sure if you realize this, but being a 'great parent' means 'raising good kids'. I do not see how it is possible to be considered a 'great parent' and have a drug addicted child than runs over innocent people. If the accident was truly an ACCIDENT, I might agree that the parents had no responsibility. But this wasn't an 'accident'. Someone who news reports claim has had substance abuse problems was behind the wheel of a car without supervision accompanied only by a can of 'cleaner'. It seems to me that this was a totally avoidable situation and not an accident. Again, I'm only speaking in general terms, based off what has been reported.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 07:09 PM
@ ebuddha: Once again, let me explain that I'm not accusing or suggesting anything to do with the Sacramento's - just pointing out how your comparison of the two families as to who's the better parents, who does and doesn't deserve sympathy/blame and so on and so forth is as unfounded as your criticism of Forest's beliefs because you know neither family nor what goes on behind closed doors. -and I certainly hope and expect others who are reading this to understand (as you apparently do not) that I was simply presenting you with an analogy as to better illustrate my point. And I'll say it again and again in defense of the Rousso's: good parents can have bad kids. And in all honesty, I feel bad saying so much because even in light of what's happened, I don't look at Carly as a bad person - just a young person who made a terrible mistake and will pay dearly for the rest of her life - prison or not. So sad for both sides.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM
So at this point, can we both agree to disagree?
ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Anonymous - where do you find in any comment on any article related to this mess where anyone 'compared the two families' and judged 'who are the better parents'? the comments have centered on the 'bad parenting' of one family producing a 'substance abusing teen driving under the influence' and the damange done to another family as a result. you are the one who continues to want to discuss the Sacramento's family/parenting - which is completely irrelevant to this situation because it was not a factor in causing this tradegy -- whereas, the parenting and actions of the Rousso's most clearly are a factor and hence deserve consideration. please show me where i or anyone else has compared the parenting between the two families, otherwise, do not make statements as you just have suggesting that i have made such a comparison - i have not. clearly you do know Carly and her parents and as a result you are making irrational statements out of the grief you feel. you are trying to equalize the two sides as best you can but you need to accept that one side caused the situation and the other side was an innocent victim.
ebuddha September 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
absolutely not. you are clearly wrong and too close to the situation and not seeing things clearly.
Social Justice September 14, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Being a good parent does not mean instilling a sense of entitlement, which Carly's parents have done. It does not mean letting your drug addicted daughter drive your car. It does not mean bailing your daughter out of jail when she has killed someone. What a good parent does is let their child feel the consequences of their choices.
Chilawyer September 15, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Anonymous, you are absolutely right, Carly is not a bad person, just a young person who made a terrible mistake. Like any other drunk or drug addict who has wantonly slaughtered a young child with her parents' luxury car and left the child's blood running in the gutter, Carly deserves our sympathy and understanding. Let us know when you start her defense fund, I'll put a penny in (and take $10 out for Jaclyn's family).
Chilawyer September 15, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Agree, SJ. While certainly not a pleasant place to be, the Lake County Jail is alot safer than any Illinois penitentiary in which Carly will ultimately be incarcerated. Her parents should have left her in there for a week to give themselves time to regroup and also to impress upon her the importance of complying with the restrictions of her bail and the consequences of any violation, being returned to the jail she experienced for a week.
forest barbieri September 15, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Social Justice While at this stage of these blogs, I usually stay away as they tend to transcend into something I choose purposefully to avoid, I do have a couple of comments: You said, “being a good parent does not mean instilling a sense of entitlement, which Carley's parents clearly have done." How do you know that or is that just a WAA? (Wild Ass Assumption). Look, some adults in our area act and feel entitled. I see some kids that cry when anything does not go just their way or call mommy on their cell anytime they do not get their way, talk to their nanny's like the nanny is their personal slave or are just plain mean. These are parent created entitlement issues among their children perhaps excessively spoiled or parents that just do not have time for the kids therefore, giving them anything they want so as a parent they do not have to deal. That sir, is poor parenting. We do not, at least I personally do not, know anything about the Rousso family so I cannot judge them as readily as you seem to. If you are indeed a parent, are you saying in similar circumstances you would not bail out your daughter? She will have plenty of hard time and the rest of her life to feel the consequences and rightfully so! One can even argue that the punishment is not equal to the crime and should be more severe, nonetheless she is still someone’s daughter. I would be devastated, humiliated and angry as a parent but would still unquestionably love my daughter.
charlie September 15, 2012 at 05:49 AM
NO MATTER what kind of punishment the law will be handed to carly, it will never measure the life long pain the santos have been GIVEN. this will never disappear not in this life. but while we're in this life, forgiveness, is to help cope with any wrong doing. both families will need that in their lives to help them move forward. because backwards is simply out of the question.blame is the dealer,forgiveness is the healer.
Benny G. September 17, 2012 at 04:40 AM
ebuddha, your logic is a train wreck. "Good" parents can raise good kids. Good parents can raise bad kids. Bad parents can raise good kids and bad parents can raise bad kids. Good parents have raised bad kids that turned into good adults. Good parents have raised good kids that turned into bad adults. I could go on ad nauseum. When you throw addiction into the equation, all logic goes out the window. So do everyone a favor and take your broad brush and shove it deeply...
Lou September 17, 2012 at 12:47 PM
For a moment, think about the future. Over 10,000 Americans die each year from DUI, that's a huge reduction since the war against DUI started in 1982 when the annual number of fatalities was 25,000. And "miles driven" now is about double so the rate of DUI is substantially lower than 30 years ago. The question remains: how do we markedly reduce the number of these yearly 10,000 needless deaths? After years of research, the real expectation of license loss is the single best deterrent! But courts and judges have stymied the efforts of the experts and legislatures. Judge after judge often continue to provide "supervision" and partial license privileges to drunk drivers all over the USA, especially in Illinois. Drivers must ACTUALLY expect loss of their license if they consume substances that define DUI. (Pilots already KNOW they will lose their license.) Instead, vehicle drivers expect a slap on the wrist as their defense attorney argues for leniency. Realistically, no law or sanction will work 100%, but significant reductions can occur if judges start using the law as a death defying measure. It is not unreasonable to cut that 10,000 dead in half if only our judges get tougher and start revoking licenses for long periods of time. After a crash, even the toughest judge cannot undo the damage.
Sari September 18, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Benny G....I agree with everything you said, until your end rude comment. Why do people feel that the anonymity of the Internet enables them to toss out the respect and tact that they might have shown someone in person? I'll do you a favor and not speculate on how you were raised.
ebuddha September 18, 2012 at 01:40 PM
i disagree - i think whether you are a 'good' parent or a 'bad' parent is measured by the children you produce - similar to determing if you are a good pitcher is measure by your ERA or a good batter by your batting avg. maybe there are some rare exceptions, but i'm not sure how a 'good' parent raises a drug addict. i'm not talking about what happens to children once they become adults. i'm talking abuot children while they are still at home.
Ariel Ortega September 20, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I think many of the people here are naive in assuming that the Rousso family will end up loosing their daughter for "up to 15 years" When we look explicitly at the demographic group she represents and reflect on some of the traditions of the american legal system (remember Casey Anthony) it is logical to assume that Carly will walk into court with her golden P---- and get a slap on the wrist.
Anonymous September 21, 2012 at 04:42 PM
I couldn't agree with Ariel more, in fact, I bet Carly does MORE than 15 years considering the demographic group who wants to see her lynched. And FYI, Ariel, there's a huge difference in Casey and Carly and it has nothing to do with their being "white" - it's that Casey's Hispanic attorney created just enough reasonable doubt whereas there's little doubt who's responsible for Jaclyn's death. *And* if you aren't pleased with our legal system or our demographics, I can think of another country where you'll probably fit right in, you racist pig.
alice October 05, 2012 at 05:01 AM
Maybe Carly should just go kill herself. Then would you people be happy?
alice October 05, 2012 at 05:06 AM
this shows that carly is clearly a troubled teen. there are million teens in america posting much worse yet u are obsessed with this one girls mistake. im sorry but do you know either family on a personal level? were you there when the accident happened? who are you to judge?
alice October 05, 2012 at 05:17 AM
This shows who you are. Not who Carly is. Why do you think judging and condemning her is ok? Have never made mistakes? Sure Carly's mistake had much more fatal consequences. But are you forgetting that she is a human too, she feels pain too. I'm almost positive Carly did not wake up one morning thinking to kill another human being. You are throwing many rocks ebuddha. Does talking about this child as though she is a monster make you feel any better? Does hoping she get "35+ years in the clink" help you sleep better at night? You are running on a lot of hate. Did Carly ever hurt you? I didn't think so. May God bless you, you clearly need some love in your life.
David Greenberg October 06, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Or conversely it could show a teen engaging in some lighthearted tomfoolery... Pretending to be a beach model, or flipping someone the bird... Who knows? Ms. Russo and perhaps the photographer. So unless you were the photographer, or Ms. Russo told you what she had in mind when those photos were taken, how do you know? Who are you to judge?
Jaycee October 30, 2012 at 09:26 AM
All I have to say is I think it's RIDICULOUS that Carly STILL hasn't been put in jail. Police say they have pictures and even a video of the accident. YES, it was accident... Accidents happen but everybody needs to be held responsible for their actions. Rousso has a lot of issues according to the reports that have been reased and I think
Jaycee October 30, 2012 at 09:27 AM
it's safe to say we ALL have issues that doesnt make any of this Ok.. does anybody honestly think that murderers, alcoholics, drug addicts, ect. are they way they are because they want to?? NO, im pretty sure they all have a troubled past just like rousso but its no excuse to get away with anything.. i just feel like this has a lot to do with money And what I don't understand is if her parents knew all along about all her problems why not use the 50,000 dollars they used to bail her out to get her the help she REALLY needed!!!???!?!? I know the mother of Jaclyn santos personally.. And it kills me to see that their lives have been completely turned around.. She doesn't smile the way she did before and has those moments where you know all she's doing is thinking of her precious little angel. That family will NEVER be the same..
Jaycee October 30, 2012 at 09:28 AM
And yes, the rousso family will never be the same either I understand that.. I don't wish bad upon anybody all I want is for justice to be served. This girl should of been locked up already. I know her parents love her and are doing anything and everything possible to protect their daughter but pleading not guilty when you ran over and killed a 5 year old CHILD.. Smh! I really wish rousso would just step up and take responsibility for her actions.. But if she's not gonna do it I really hope the judge makes the right decision. R.I.P. Jaclyn santos.. You have touched many people in different ways and you will never be forgotten!! My deepest sorry for the rousso parents too because they're about to lose their daughter. Definitely something no parent should ever have to do.. But it's easier to say see you later than goodbye forever!!
Lou October 30, 2012 at 11:20 AM
The tragedy on Central Avenue is repeated daily in our country by those who believe driving does not require full attention and care while operating a moving multi-ton vehicle capable of speeds of 100mph on public roads. Forget the legal limit for alcohol for a minute, most drivers' abilities are markedly reduced at just half of the legal limit. Ever notice at the outset of parties that people start talking faster and louder and acting crazy? Ever notice drivers at night passing you at 90 mph? DUI, most of the time. Those who are concerned about this unfortunate death should look at the larger picture, booze and drugs surround us yet courts do not hand down sentences that reflect the seriousness of DUI crimes. Instead, courts routinely place drivers quickly back on our roads. We all need to recognize, DUI drivers are awash in alcohol, pills, inhalants, injectables, Rx and non Rx drugs, glue, and preparations like bath salts. And the court systems in America lets DUI drivers off one after the other! Jail is a rarity. License revocation is also a rarity. Supervised driving is all too common. The judges of America are partially responsible for the deaths and injuries DUI causes because judicial tolerance reigns supreme, once a judge slaps a wrist there is nothing worried parents can do to keep potential killers away from our kids. Drivers do not value their drivers' licenses nor fear jail because our tax paid judges have made it all too easy on violators.

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