A four-mile stretch of Interstate 64 between Mascoutah and O’Fallon, Ill., was renamed the Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Highway this morning.
Jessica and Kelli Uhl were killed in a car crash the day after Thanksgiving in 2007. The sisters were hit head on by former Illinois state trooper Matt Mitchell when he crossed a median and slammed into their car at over 120 miles per hour. Mitchell was reportedly responding to an accident while using his in-car computer and making a personal call on his cell phone.
The mother of the sisters, Kim Schlau, worked with Illinois Rep. Dwight Kay and Sen. Bill Haine to erect the permanent memorial.
“We are happy to see that they’re not going to be just another couple of road deaths that happened in 2007," Schlau said about her daughters. "That it’s a lasting memorial to their lives and also hopefully a reminder for people to slow down and not use their phones while they’re driving and pay attention.”
Mitchell pleaded guilty to two charges of reckless homicide and two charges of aggravated reckless driving for injuries sustained by a couple whose car was involved in the accident. He was sentenced to 30 months of probation and his license was suspended for two years. He is also no longer allowed to be a police officer.
Schlau said her family would have liked for Mitchell to receive jail time but that they are pleased with his sentence overall.
“Ultimately we wanted to make sure that he would not be a police officer anymore," Schlau said. "This was his third crash and we wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen to another family.”
Schlau also worked with Kay and Haine to pass Uhl's Law, which prevents employees from receiving workers’ compensation if they were injured while committing a felony. She pursued this legislation after Mitchell filed for workers’ compensation after the crash that killed Jessica and Kelli.
Schlau hosts fundraisers and blood drives to support the Jessica Uhl Memorial Scholarship for incoming freshmen at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where Jessica was a freshman at the time of her death. She also travels around the country and talks with active-duty police officers and trainees about safe driving habits.
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