Crash puts end to a life that was full of promise

Home from college for the holidays, best friends Ayesha Judkins and Latosha Davis were driving home from a sorority party. As they waited for a red light to change on the South Side, Judkins' last words spoke to the future.

The Southern Illinois University students were rehashing a night of dancing, laughing and flirting.


Even though the boy Judkins had taken a fancy to hadn't asked for her phone number, it didn't matter to her, Davis recalled.

"She was like, `Oh, well. There will be other times,"' Davis said.


At that moment, a sport-utility vehicle that police said was going as fast as 80 m.p.h., driven by a man who allegedly had a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, slammed into their car from behind.

The next thing Davis remembers is seeing Judkins, 20, sprawled across her lap.

"I heard her gasping," Davis said. "She didn't have her eyes open."

Judkins, a junior who was majoring in journalism and had a cousin who died in the E2 nightclub stampede, is remembered for her dedication at school where she had written for the student-run Daily Egyptian newspaper, said Walter Jaehnig, the director of the journalism school.

On top of a full load of classes, she was involved in putting out the school's first yearbook in 18 years and was vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists SIU chapter.

Jaehnig, who had Judkins in a class in the fall semester, said he recently found an e-mail from her offering condolences on the sudden death of his father.

"She was a charming young woman," he said. "I was struck by that."

Gustavo Garibay Jr., 24, has been charged with reckless homicide and aggravated driving under the influence in the crash at 91st Street and Commercial Avenue.


Garibay has seven convictions for speeding and other motor vehicle offenses. Over the last five years he has had his driver's license suspended twice, according to state records.

On Sunday he had a valid license.

Judkins grew up on the West Side and graduated from Westinghouse High School in 2001 with honors.

She wanted to attend school away from the city to be able to mix with people from different backgrounds, said her mother, Debbie McKenzie.

"She was dedicated. When she told you she was going to do something, she tried her best to do it," McKenzie said.

To prepare for a career in journalism, she had been actively pursuing internships with media outlets, her mother said.


"She always loved to write ever since she was a little girl," her mother said.

"She put her thoughts on paper. It was something she always did."

A story in the school newspaper had quoted Judkins about how she found out early one morning from her mother that a cousin had been one of 21 people to die in the E2 nightclub in February.

"I hate getting phone calls early in the morning because I'm always scared of getting bad news," Judkins said in February.

A similar call came to her mother on Sunday. Judkins was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

"He took my only child away from me, a young lady who had a promising future. She had a heart of gold and always had a smile on her face," McKenzie said.


"This guy just came and took her away from us," she said.

Police and prosecutors said Garibay, of the 9700 block of South Houston Ave., admitted to drinking three beers but had a blood alcohol level of .22, almost three times the legal limit.

He appeared in court on Monday with an apparent injury from the accident. After striking Davis' car, which hit another car, Garibay's truck hit a utility pole.

Cook County prosecutors said Garibay was chasing another car and had reached speeds up to 80 miles per hour in the 30-m.p.h. zone.

His truck hit with such force that the back of the Saturn was crumpled up to the back seat of the car, prosecutors said.

Garibay, who worked as a tuck-pointer, pleaded guilty in 1997 to a misdemeanor gun charge after a police officer said he saw him toss a loaded handgun to the ground.


Garibay told police he had the gun because he used to be a gang member and had it for protection, according to court documents.

Judkins' personality was a magnet for other people, Davis said.

"She was very open and outgoing and funny," Davis said. "I'm angry because he took my friend away and someone we looked at as a high-spirited person."