Legal expert: driver in crash that killed four teens could face - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Legal expert: driver in crash that killed four teens could face charges

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Clockwise from top left: Sean Keneally, Mitchell Kluesner, Bryce Wilwert and NIcholas Kramer, all 14. (Courtesy Western Dubuque County Community School District) Clockwise from top left: Sean Keneally, Mitchell Kluesner, Bryce Wilwert and NIcholas Kramer, all 14. (Courtesy Western Dubuque County Community School District)
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

In situations involving multiple fatalities and a lot of people, criminal charges can take awhile to file, experts say.

That may be the case in the Dubuque County crash that killed four young teenagers last month.

According to the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office, the crash happened around 1:30 p.m. on Sat., Aug. 2, when the driver of a pick-up truck ran a stop sign and collided with a Gator utility vehicle the four boys were riding. That was at the intersection of Hartbecke and East Pleasant Grove roads in Dubuque County.

The teens, all 14 years old, were Bryce Wilwert of Placid (Dubuque County), Mitchell Kluesner of Epworth, Nick Kramer of Dyersville and Sean Kenneally of Peosta.

24-year-old Joe Connolly, of rural Holy Cross in Dubuque County, was the driver of the truck. He was uninjured in the crash, but his two passengers -- Joe Lucas, 25, of Epworth and Elissa Ericson, 21, of Cedar Rapids -- were both hurt.

Newly-available court documents show law enforcement officials suspected Connolly may have been drunk when his pick-up truck crashed into a utility vehicle carrying the four young teens. A search warrant allowed the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office to measure Connolly's blood alcohol content nearly five hours after the crash. The court documents do not say the results of that test.

More on what those documents detail is HERE: http://www.kwwl.com/story/26431390/2014/09/02/breaking-man-accused-of-driving-drunk-in-deadly-utv-crash

This new information has prompted many people to ask why, if officials suspected Connolly was drunk at the time of the incident, he was not arrested and charged the day of the crash.

KWWL legal analyst Karen Thalacker lends some insight.

"Law enforcement needs to gather evidence and evaluate whether a crime has been committed before they bring charges," Thalacker told KWWL Wednesday. "The opposite of that, which no one would want, is to file charges too quickly and see if there is enough evidence to support it."

In a situation like this, she said, attorneys and law enforcement officers need to make sure they have everything in line before pressing charges.

"Once the prosecutor has brought charges, the defendant can demand to be tried within ninety days - it's called the right to a speedy trial," Thalacker said. "That means the prosecutor must have enough evidence to support a conviction when he or she brings the charges."

A search of Connolly's record shows he has a number of past alcohol offenses, including a public intoxication charge from last year and an operating while intoxicated charge from four years ago.

Court documents show Connolly, when he was 20 years old, pleaded guilty in Sept. of 2010 to operating an ATV with a blood alcohol content level of 0.24, which is three times the legal limit. He spent two days in jail for the offense and was under two years' probation.

He has not been arrested or charged in connection to the Aug. 2 crash of this year.

"Prosecutors and law enforcement understand that it's excruciating for those involved in this to wait for the outcome of the investigation," Thalacker said. "However, in the end, it is in everyone's best interest that the investigation be done slowly and carefully and that if charges are brought, that they're supported by the evidence."

A friend of the Connolly family tells KWWL Joe Connolly is not coping well with this tragedy and hasn't returned to work since the crash.

RELATED: Man suspected of driving drunk in deadly UTV crash

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