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Friends recall 'dedicated' woman killed in crash

SOUTH SIDE — Home from college for the holidays, best friends Ayesha Judkins and Latosha Davis were driving home Sunday from a sorority party. As they waited for a red light to change, 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 connected with hadn't asked for her phone number, it didn't matter to her, Davis recalled.

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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.

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"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 had Judkins in a class in the fall semester and recently found an e-mail from her offering condolences on the sudden death of his father.

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.

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

"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."

Police and prosecutors said Garibay, of the 9700 block of South Houston Avenue, 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.

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Compiled from RedEye news services.


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