The parents of a teenage girl killed during an alleged street race this week in Gurnee described the added pain and betrayal they felt toward one of the drivers — they said they had once taken him into their house when he had nowhere else to go.
Michael Dawson, 19, of Antioch, was charged with aggravated street racing after police said he engaged in a race with the driver of a second carload of teens that lost control and crashed Monday night.
Cynthia Perez, 16, was in the back seat of the second car and was ejected when the car flipped over into a median ditch, officials said. The driver of the car that carried Perez and two other passengers — Jeremy Betancourt, 17, also of Antioch — has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated street racing and driving without either a valid license or insurance.
"This is my baby," Edgar Perez, Cynthia's father, said Wednesday, adding that Cynthia called Dawson "her big brother" after he lived with the family for three months a few years ago.
Dawson, who was having trouble at home, lived with the Perez family until he graduated from Antioch High School, Perez said. The family also took him on a vacation to Florida that summer, he said.
"We offered him a place to live. We fed him, we took him in like a son," said Perez's wife, Hilda Hinkle. "My husband tried to help him. … Now I'm never going to see her again."
Gurnee police are still interviewing witnesses in the investigation, a spokesman said. Dawson and Betancourt remained in Lake County Jail late Wednesday, according to online sheriff's department records.
Cynthia died at the accident scene on Illinois Highway 120 near Hunt Club Road.
The youngest of four children, she had hoped to be a Marine and had "Semper fi" tattooed on one shoulder (without her parents' permission, Perez added). She doted on her younger cousins and was looking forward to her sister's delivery of twins, her aunt, Marisol Lobono, said via email.
"She was living the life of your typical teenager and learning to spread her wings," Lobono wrote. "Who knows what her life would have shaped out to be."
Cynthia's boyfriend, who was a passenger in the car, was injured in the crash and remained hospitalized Wednesday, Hinkle said. "He's devastated. He was going to be our future son-in-law."
Visitation is scheduled from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Strang Funeral Home of Antioch.