CHICAGO — Family and attorneys for a teen who died after he was struck by a driver allegedly under the influence of cocaine are calling for accountability and more serious charges to be filed.

Joshua Anleu, 16, who attended Carl Schurz High School, was riding his bicycle when he was hit and killed on Oct. 4, 2023, at the intersection of West Waveland Avenue and North Long Avenue in Portage Park.

“You didn’t just take away my son, you took away my whole life,” Karen Buendia said.

Family and friends remember the teen as ambitious, charismatic, and loving, with a contagious laugh. His mother said he wanted to go to school to become a clothing designer and had already started drafting his designs on paper.

“He was a happy boy; he enjoyed high school, he loved his friends,” Buendia said. “He loved life.”

According to Chicago police, the 41-year-old woman, identified in court documents as Jennifer Kurz, hit Joshua after she claimed she stopped at a stop sign. She told investigators she did not see the teen before she heard and felt something on the right side of her car.

Tom Perkowski, who lives nearby, said he witnessed the crash and saw two drivers who did not stop at stop signs. Attorneys and family showed WGN News a video obtained from a home surveillance camera at the intersection that showed the car dragging and running over the teen before it stopped.

“I’m only asking for justice. How hard is that? I’m asking for nothing else,” Buendia said. “I have the witness, we have the video, we have the blood test, what else do you need?”

Kurz was initially issued a traffic citation for failure to exercise due care to avoid hitting a person on a bicycle, records show. A police report showed she submitted voluntarily to a blood and urine test the night of the crash at Resurrection Hospital.

According to court records, Kurz was charged on Feb. 23 with driving under the influence of a controlled substance. A misdemeanor complaint filed in Cook County showed she allegedly had cocaine in her system and that it rendered her incapable of safely driving.

Legal counsel and family of Joshua said the charges don’t fit the alleged crime and they argue the charges should be upgraded to aggravated DUI, a felony in Illinois.

“She’s been at home for the past six months; she had Christmas, she had Thanksgiving, she had holidays with her kids and family and I’m here, burying my son,” Buendia said.

Attorneys representing Joshua’s family said they took on the case under the Illinois Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in the State of Illinois. Under the statute, attorneys are allowed to appear in court and conduct an investigation, however, they do not have subpoena powers.

“We’re doing this because it’s the right thing. This is why we worked all those years in the state’s attorney’s office,” David Herrera, said. “We’re going to continue to follow it, no matter where the evidence goes and no matter how long it takes.”

Herrera, owner of the Law Office of David C. Herrera, LLC and attorney Nick D’Angelo said the only thing that separates a misdemeanor and felony DUI in Illinois is an aggravating factor being present.

“In this case, the only aggravating factor being that the defendant’s driving caused great bodily harm or death,” D’Angelo said.

The misdemeanor charges the driver is facing currently do not reflect that she hit a person, only that she was driving under the influence. Joshua died from blunt force injuries caused by a motor vehicle crash, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Joe Roddy, a former prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and current partner with Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, is not involved in the case but reviewed the documents provided to him by WGN News. Based on what the complaints and police report said, Roddy told WGN News it is fair to question why felony charges have not been filed.

“I think you’re looking at a situation here where, not only would you be talking about upgrading it to a felony, but more likely to the crime of reckless homicide,” Roddy said.

Roddy said if the person accused in a crash was under the influence of a narcotic or alcohol, which is alleged here, then investigators must determine whether the person having it in their system was a direct cause or linked to the actions that ended up causing the death of the teen.

He also told WGN News an instance where he would expect prosecutors not to file a reckless homicide charge would be one where investigators determined the evidence of a controlled substance in a person’s system had nothing to do with the crash.

“Every case is fact-specific and there’s no sort of silo you can put all cases like this. You have to look at everything,” Roddy said. “If there is evidence that would show there is nothing to corroborate she had cocaine in her system, so medical records, everything came back that there was nothing there or there was no evidence, or she made no statement, then you would see that it would be difficult to meet your burden of proof.”

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office stood by its charging decision. It released a statement to WGN News:

“After a thorough review of the information presented to us by police, we concluded that the evidence was insufficient to meet our burden of proof to approve felony charges. The Chicago Police Department agreed with this determination and filed misdemeanor and traffic offenses against the defendant.  As prosecutors, we have both an ethical and legal obligation to make charging decisions based on the evidence, facts, and the law. The CCSAO is committed to the work of justice, and we are open to reviewing any new information that is brought to us.”

Attorneys said no matter what happens, it won’t bring Joshua back, but they want family to at least know people care and they’re fighting for them.

“We want people to understand that Joshua’s life meant something and to ignore it in the charging scheme that the state’s attorney’s have now, absolutely doesn’t even recognize that she killed Joshua,” D’Angelo said.

Court documents show Kurz is represented by attorneys with Harris, Harris & Cabrera. WGN News reached out Monday for comment and is waiting to hear back.

According to Illinois law, if a person is arrested for DUI, a statutory summary suspension for their license can be issued by police. It is separate from criminal charges.

Last week, Kurz and her attorneys filed a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. It is not clear whether a judge has made a ruling on it.

Kruz is due back in court on April 30.