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Peoria woman sentenced to 4 years in prison for fatal DUI that killed electric bike rider

A gavel rests on a judge's bench in a blurry courtroom. The text "WCBU Courts" sits on top of that photo.

A Peoria woman was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday, after prosecutors said she struck and killed a man riding an electric bike while she was driving under the influence of cannabis.

Destinee Cole, 23, pleaded guilty in February to aggravated driving under the influence, which carries a sentencing range of three to 14 years.

Assistant State’s Attorney Brian FitzSimons said the level of metabolized cannabis in her system was found to be over the legal limit. That was discovered through lab tests taken after Cole struck 33-year-old Corey Griffin midway through the intersection of Kellogg and Waverly avenues in June 2021.

Cole will have to serve at least 85% of the sentence.

The sentencing hearing included victim impact testimony from Griffin’s mother, Patricia Griffin.

“He can’t tell me he loves me anymore. I can’t see his face,” she said through tears. “He could have been anything in this world he wanted to be. He was only 33 when he left me.”

One of Griffin’s aunts also read from a letter submitted as part of the pre-sentencing investigation. Family members and friends of both Griffin and Cole filled the courtroom with tears on both sides of the aisle. Patricia Griffin and other Griffin family members left the room during the reading of the sentence, some of them sobbing.

Before the sentence was read, Cole addressed the court.

“I deeply regret the harm I’ve caused everybody, especially Corey and his loved ones,” she said. “I understand that I’ve profoundly changed the life of so many people.”

Cole stopped reading part way through her prepared statement, unable to continue while crying. Cole's attorney Kevin Sullivan finished the rest of the letter that concluded with an apology to the Griffin family.

“I pray for a time your emotional pain will be healed,” Sullivan read. “Please know from the bottom of my heart, I am so, so sorry.”

The statement also included Cole’s desire to educate others about the dangers of consuming cannabis and driving, as well as her hope to return to her job as a caregiver for the elderly.

Sullivan tried to prove “extraordinary circumstances” in the collision that would have allowed for probation instead of prison time, as dictated by the statutes surrounding an aggravated DUI where a death is involved.

But Chief Judge Katherine Gorman ruled the situation fell short of the high bar to qualify for the “extraordinary circumstances” designation.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.