Metro-East News

Woman in crash that killed husband was on painkillers, police say

Jennifer Sawyer
Jennifer Sawyer Provided

A Belleville woman was under the influence of opioids and alcohol when she crashed on Old U.S. 50 in April, killing her husband and injuring their three children, according to police reports and charges filed by prosecutors.

Jennifer J. Sawyer, 32, has been charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence in connection with the crash April 30 that killed her husband. The charges allege she was under the influence of alcohol, oxycodone and benzodiazepine.

After arriving at the crash, paramedics gave Sawyer a dose of Narcan, a drug used in emergency situations to reverse opioid overdoses. Sawyer’s condition improved after receiving the drug, an indication of opioid overdose, according to an affidavit written by Illinois State Police Special Agent Jamie Brunnworth.

Narcan has no effect on a person who is not overdosing on opioids, according to its manufacturer.

Sawyer told police the day after the crash that she had prescriptions for Percocet, an addictive painkiller; Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine; and Promethazine, an antihistamine that can cause drowsiness. She said she could not remember when she had last taken the medicines, according to the affidavit. She would not consent to a search of her vehicle, which was impounded at an auto body shop in New Baden.

Brunnworth’s affidavit was part of an application for a warrant to search the vehicle. A judge approved the search, which turned up three prescription drug bottles for Sawyer — one bottle each of oxycodone, an addictive painkiller; Carisoprodol, a muscle relaxer; and Amitriptyline, an antidepressant. A prescription bottle of a cholesterol-lowering medicine for her husband, Ernest J. Sawyer Jr., 35, was also found in the search.

Brunnworth, in the affidavit, said a witness reported seeing the vehicle being driven erratically, and that the driver caused a backup at a highway intersection in Trenton.

“He advised the vehicle sat at the stop sign this whole time, and other vehicles were honking their horns and driving through the gas station parking lot to go around it,” Brunnworth wrote. “As the vehicle drove through the intersection, he said it drove into the other lane of travel before correcting itself.”

Earnest Sawyer was not wearing a safety belt when the crash occurred, according to Illinois State Police Trooper Calvin Dye Jr., and was ejected from the vehicle. He was later pronounced dead at Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh.

Jennifer Sawyer is scheduled to appear in court on July 5. She remained in custody in the St. Clair County Jail as of Tuesday afternoon with bail set at $200,000.

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