Woman Hurt by Illegal Immigrant Speaks Out
MILWAUKEE - The man who drove the wrong way on New Year's Day at 7:15 a.m. was charged Wednesday. Leopoldo Salas-Gayton, 41, of Milwaukee, faces 25 years behind bars for hitting two cars and killing a woman while driving drunk. His blood alcohol level was .145, nearly twice the legal limit.
"I have been in shock. Here I was able to walk away and someone else loses their life," Susan Roedel said.
Roedel was driving home from her third shift job New Year's Day when Salas-Gayton is accused of plowing in to her. She survived, but the woman driving in the car next to her, Corrie Damske of Milwaukee, died at the scene.
"It just breaks my heart," Roedel said.
The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Department said Salas-Gayton was driving westbound on I-94, stopped in the middle of the freeway, and then turned around, and started going eastbound, heading directly into oncoming traffic. The sheriff's department said he told investigators he did not know he was on the interstate.
The criminal complaint said Salas-Gayton told investigators he bought a 12 pack of beer, drank the beer while he was in the car driving around by himself, and may have fallen asleep at the wheel.
He admitted he is an illegal immigrant who has been in America for 13 years. He said he does not have a driver's license, and knows he is not allowed behind the wheel. He also said he had been ticketed twice before by Milwaukee Police for driving without a license.
Despite what happened, Roedel doesn't want the focus on Salas-Gayton, who remains at Froedtert Hospital with a leg injury. Her thoughts are with Damske's family.
Damske's funeral will be held Friday, January 7, at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 5571 S. Marilyn St., Milwaukee, 53221 from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Funeral Mass 12:30 p.m.
Damske will be laid to rest at Mount Olivet Cemetery following the Mass.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Hayden's 529 college fund would be greatly appreciated. Donations can be made payable to "Robert W. Baird for the benefit of Hayden Lamb" and mailed to: Suzanne King c/o Robert W. Baird, P.O. Box 672, Milwaukee, WI 53201-9809.