17-year-old faces nine charges in crash that killed New Berlin couple

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MILWAUKEE -- 17-year-old Kelly Duke has been charged in the New Year's Day crash that killed 61-year-old Edwin Thaves, and his 52-year-old wife, Jean of New Berlin. He's now being held on $200,000 cash bail. Duke appeared in court Wednesday with cuts on his face and a broken arm.

Duke has been charged with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle with prohibited alcohol concentration, two counts of hit and run, resulting in death, two counts of knowingly operating while suspended, causing death, and one count of operating a vehicle without the owner's consent - nine total charges, seven of those felonies - for the crash that occurred around 6:00 a.m. near 27th and St. Paul.

The criminal complaint says an officer responded to the scene near 27th and St. Paul early Sunday morning, and observed the Thaves' silver Nissan with its roof torn off, and significant damage. The Thaves' were pronounced dead at the scene. The other vehicle involved, a maroon Chevy vehicle had also sustained severe damage. The vehicle came back registered to a Dennis Pruitt, and the driver of that vehicle had fled the scene.

The officer responding to the scene talked with an adult citizen witness who said he was coming home from work, and was behind the Thaves' silver Nissan, and they were stopped at a red light at the intersection of 27th and St. Paul.

The witness indicated he observed the maroon Chevy vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed lose control at the intersection, and become airborne. The witness said the maroon vehicle tore the roof off the silver Nissan. The witness said he then ran to the silver car, and observed two people inside, and shortly thereafter, saw the driver of the maroon Chevy vehicle jump out the driver's side window. The witness said he approached the driver to see if he was okay, but the driver ran away toward Wisconsin Avenue.

The complaint says an officer at the scene spoke with a man claiming to be Duke's brother. That man told the officer he had just received a call from his mother, saying Duke had taken the maroon Chevy, which belonged to his aunt, without their permission. The man said he came upon the accident because he was looking for the car his brother had stolen, and his brother. Duke's brother later called officials and reported Duke's whereabouts, leading to his arrest at a home on S. 35th Street. Officials say when they arrested Duke, he had thick, slow speech and an odor of alcohol on his breath. The complaint says he also had several fresh lacerations and other injuries, and was transported to the hospital.

The complaint goes on to say when questioned by police, Duke said he couldn't remember if he had permission to take the vehicle, but he believed he did. Duke said he took the car and went to his grandmother's house, where he began drinking. He said he doesn't remember how much he was drinking, and said he remembers being in a car accident, but doesn't remember what happened. Duke said when the accident occurred, he was on his way to visit his girlfriend, who works at Potawatomi Bingo Casino, which is where the Thaves were leaving from, about to get on the freeway to head back to their New Berlin home early New Year's Day.

The complaint says a toxicology report indicated that three-and-a-half hours after the accident, Duke had a blood alcohol concentration of .183.

Duke's driver's license was suspended after multiple failures to pay forfeiture and for a juvenile alcohol violation back in January of 2011.

Two of Duke's friends spoke with FOX6 Wednesday night, but didn't want to be identified. "The things people are saying, like he deserves the death penalty, and they should bury him under the jail, they need to stop with all that nonsense, because if it was their family member or friend, I'm sure they wouldn't want people talking about them," one friend said. "Whoever was there while he was drinking, should at least get some kind of punishment, and he shouldn't be the only one punished for this," another of Duke's friends said.

The criminal complaint doesn't say whether Duke's grandmother was home at the time, though it does say Duke told officials he was drinking at her home. FOX6 stopped by her home Wednesday and there was no answer at the door, despite the landlord saying someone was home.

Autopsy reports performed on Edwin and Jean Thaves concluded they both died from multiple blunt force traumas to the head. The Thaves' family released a statement Wednesday, and also asked people to reserve judgement against Duke, saying "we also ask no one judge the actions of the suspect in custody until all the facts are known." The Thaves' family's statement went on to say: "Words do not seem adequate to express the loss of Ed and Jean in the tragic incident of New Year's Day. We are thankful for the outpouring of kindness expressed by those who knew and loved them."