Stephanie Melgoza is a 25-year-old former student of Bradley University who pleaded guilty to killing two pedestrians, Andrea Rosewicz (43) and Paul Prowant (55), while driving under the influence of alcohol in East Peoria, Illinois on the night of April 10th, 2022. Melgoza’s blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit when she fatally struck Rosewicz and Prowant on North Main Street. Her case sparked outrage nationwide and highlighted the devastating consequences of driving while impaired.
The Fatal Crash On the night of April 10th, 2022, Stephanie Melgoza was driving her SUV down North Main Street in East Peoria, IL when she veered onto the sidewalk and struck pedestrians Andrea Rosewicz, 43, and Paul Prowant, 55. According to police reports, Melgoza made no attempt to slow down or stop before hitting Rosewicz and Prowant. Both victims were killed instantly due to severe trauma from the impact. Melgoza continued driving with the mangled bodies of the victims trapped under her vehicle for over 500 ft before coming to a stop.
Police arrived at the horrific scene to find a hysterical Melgoza and the deceased victims still pinned under the front end of her SUV. Melgoza admitted to officers that she had been drinking at a friend’s house prior to getting behind the wheel that night. A blood alcohol test revealed her BAC to be at 0.27, over three times the legal limit of 0.08 in Illinois. She was immediately arrested at the scene for driving under the influence resulting in deaths.
The Aftermath & Sentencing In the aftermath of the fatal crash, Stephanie Melgoza faced intense public backlash for her actions. A video surfaced showing a giggling Melgoza smiling and laughing while in handcuffs mere moments after the deadly collision. Her behavior sparked outrage across social media and among students at Bradley University, where Melgoza had been studying sports communication. As a result of the intense criticism, Bradley banned Melgoza from walking at her upcoming graduation ceremony.
On February 3rd, 2023, Stephanie Melgoza pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated DUI causing death. On March 1st, she was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Judge Katherine Gorman after showing what Gorman called “no remorse” and “shocking and disturbing” behavior since killing Rosewicz and Prowant. Melgoza briefly apologized to the victims’ families during her sentencing hearing but remained relatively emotionless throughout the proceedings.
Melgoza’s parents, Isabel and Esteban Melgoza, later told reporters that Stephanie had been struggling with alcohol abuse and mental health issues in the lead-up to the deadly collision. They asked the public for compassion and claimed the person responsible for the deaths was not the daughter they knew. However, Judge Gorman appeared unmoved by these appeals for leniency during sentencing.
Why Did Stephanie Melgoza Drive Drunk?
According to friends and family, Stephanie Melgoza had spiralled into depression and alcohol abuse after going through a recent breakup. The former Bradley University student had built a large social media following by posting risque photos and videos to subscriber site OnlyFans. However, behind her glamorous online persona, Melgoza was privately struggling with personal issues in early 2022.
Having earned a substantial income from OnlyFans, Melgoza was able to afford an upscale lifestyle and luxury apartment in Peoria despite still being enrolled as a student. When asked about the controversial site by newspaper reporters, Melgoza claimed that OnlyFans allowed her to “have fun” while making enough money to avoid student debt.
However, her successful side venture came crumbling down when she broke up with her long-term boyfriend in March 2022, just weeks before the fatal collision. Friends told police that a heartbroken and emotionally distraught Melgoza turned to alcohol to cope with losing both her relationship and financial stability. Her spiralling mental health issues tragically culminated in the devastating crash on April 10th that killed Rosewicz and Prowant.
Why Did Stephanie Melgoza Laugh After the Crash?
One of the most shocking elements of Melgoza’s case was video footage showing her smiling, giggling and even blowing kisses while handcuffed shortly after the deadly crash. Many have questioned what would drive someone to behave so inappropriately after causing such a horrific tragedy.
Mental health experts speculate that Melgoza’s inappropriate reaction may have been caused by an acute stress response to the trauma of the crash. In extreme situations, some people can experience emotional shock and psychological dissociation from reality. While her behavior remains inexcusable, experts believe it could have been influenced by the alcohol still actively affecting her brain chemistry combined with severe panic and disbelief at having caused two deaths.
Of course, without examining Melgoza directly psychiatrists cannot provide a definitive diagnosis. However, her case provides a sobering view into the mind of someone who has caused loss of life through recklessness and poor choices. Judge Katherine Gorman later cited Melgoza’s inappropriate conduct and lack of remorse as key factors in her decision to hand down the maximum prison sentence.
Who is Stephanie Melgoza?
|25 years old
|Student at Bradley University
|Date of Incident
|April 10, 2022
|Location of Incident
|East Peoria, Illinois
|2 counts of aggravated DUI resulting in death
|14 years in prison
|Andrea Rosewicz (43) and Paul Prowant (55)
|BAC at time of incident
|0.27% (over 3 times the legal limit)
Could It Have Been a Hate Crime?
In the aftermath of the deadly collision, some raised questions around whether Melgoza may have intentionally targeted Rosewicz and Prowant because they were a same-sex couple. Citing Melgoza’s past controversial social media posts, critics asked if hate or bias could have been a motivation in the alcohol-fueled crash.
Andrea Rosewicz (43) and Paul Prowant (55) had been partners for over 15 years at the time they tragically lost their lives. The two were well-known locally as beloved owners of a downtown Peoria antique shop. Shortly before being struck by Melgoza’s SUV, Rosewicz and Prowant had visited a nearby mosque for a Ramadan celebration with friends. They were walking home arm in arm when the fatal collision occurred on North Main Street.
While motive has not officially determined, police found no evidence during their investigation suggesting the crash was deliberately targeting the couple over their sexual orientation or religious background. With Melgoza’s blood alcohol level being so high at the time, authorities believe impairment and reckless indifference were bigger factors than any potential prejudice. Still, some in the community remain skeptical that bias didn’t contribute based on Melgoza’s past controversial social media activities.
Ultimately investigators ruled there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Melgoza for any hate crimes. Her sentencing focused solely on the two counts of aggravated DUI causing death to which she pleaded guilty. However, many feel that losing Rosewicz and Prowant has taken two bright lights from both the local LGBTQ and Islamic communities.
Could Stephanie Melgoza Have Killed Before?
While she had no prior DUI arrests, Melgoza did have a 2018 speeding ticket on her driving record prior to the fatal 2022 crash. A witness also told police Melgoza had been seen swerving and driving erratically shortly before the collision with Rosewicz and Prowant. This raises questions if she may have gotten behind the wheel while impaired previously without facing charges.
According to court records, Melgoza was also connected to a March 2021 hit-and-run accident near the Bradley University campus in Peoria, IL. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence tying her directly to the collision. Still, police noted the damaged grey SUV captured fleeing the 2021 scene matched the one Melgoza was driving during the 2022 crash that killed two pedestrians.
Ultimately investigators found no conclusive evidence that Melgoza had caused any previous fatalities related to drinking and driving. Her actions on the night of April 10th, 2022, appear to have been her first offense leading to deaths. However, the pattern of reckless behavior behind the wheel has caused many to wonder if this tragedy could have been prevented with earlier intervention. The justice system will now have 14 years to rehabilitate Melgoza and ensure she never takes another life due to negligence when she completes her prison sentence.
How Did Stephanie Melgoza Kill Two People?
According to police reports, on the night of the collision, witnesses saw Stephanie Melgoza arrive alone at a friend’s residence visibly intoxicated around 8:30 pm. Despite protestations from those present, Melgoza insisted on getting behind the wheel to make the 2.3 mile drive back to her downtown Peoria apartment. Melgoza sped off into the night at an estimated 50-60 mph, blowing through stop signs in residential areas along the way.
Approximately 10 minutes after getting back into her SUV intoxicated, Melgoza was traveling northbound on North Main Street in East Peoria. As she approached the intersection with MacArthur Drive, Melgoza suddenly swerved across two lanes of oncoming traffic onto the opposite sidewalk. Her speeding Grey Toyota 4Runner slammed violently into Rosewicz and Prowant who were walking alongside the crosswalk.
Despite the force of the impact throwing the victims onto her hood, Melgoza did not brake. Carrying the mangled bodies across her smashed windshield, witnesses say Melgoza continued accelerating as she fled the scene. Her SUV reportedly dragged parts of Rosewicz and Prowant over 500 ft down North Main at estimated speeds of 70+ mph before finally crashing to a halt.
Both Andrea Rosewicz and Paul Prowant were killed on impact with Melgoza’s speeding SUV. The devastating injuries inflicted caused immediate death at the scene as certified by first responders. Melgoza herself was unharmed in the violent rollover crash. When questioned by police about why she did not stop after striking the pedestrians, Melgoza claims to have no memory of the actual collision occurring due to her intoxicated state.
Toxicology reports later confirmed Melgoza’s blood alcohol level to be 0.27, over three times the legal limit. The combination of excessive speed, recklessness, and profound impairment resulted in the devastating tragedy that claimed two innocent lives. While Melgoza may never recollect the full details that night, she will serve 14 years behind bars to account for the deaths her decisions caused.
What Was Stephanie Melgoza Charged With?
On April 11th, 2022, one day after the fatal pedestrian strike, Stephanie Melgoza was arrested at her downtown Peoria apartment by East Peoria police. She was held at Fulton Country Jail awaiting trial on the following charges:
- Aggravated DUI Resulting in Death (Two Counts)
- Reckless Homicide (Two Counts)
- Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death (Two Counts)
The multiple felony charges reflected the deaths of both Andrea Rosewicz and Paul Prowant. After lengthy pre-trial proceedings, Melgoza eventually agreed to a plea deal offered by prosecutors.
On February 3rd, 2023 Melgoza pleaded guilty to:
- Aggravated DUI Resulting in Death (Two Counts)
The two reckless homicide charges were dropped in exchange for her guilty plea.
On March 1st, 2023, Judge Katherine Gorman sentenced Melgoza to seven years in prison on each count of aggravated DUI resulting in death. The sentences are to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of 14 years at Illinois Department of Corrections Women’s Prison in Decatur, IL.
Melgoza also faces a minimum $25,000 fine upon release and a suspended driver’s license for 3 years minimum. She will likely face further civil action from the families of Andrea Rosewicz and Paul Prowant in the future.
What Were People’s Reactions to Stephanie Melgoza’s Case?
The case of Stephanie Melgoza caused shock and outrage across Illinois and beyond. Initially many could not believe that a promising young student could show such depraved indifference to human life. Melgoza’s inappropriate smiling and laughing post-crash added further disbelief at her callous reactions.
Bradley University faced backlash for not expelling Melgoza immediately following negative publicity over their student’s high-profile manslaughter case. The institution ultimately decided to ban her from commencement ceremonies once legal proceedings concluded. Outrage came from both students and the families of Paul Prowant and Andrea Rosewicz at what many perceived as Bradley failing to take a tough enough stance.
Melgoza also faced hostility from the public via social media platforms and mainstream media. On Twitter critics called her #DrunkDrivingPrincess and demanded she face maximum sentencing. Comments on news sites almost universally condemned her actions as disgusting and shameful.
However, Melgoza’s parents Isabel and Esteban repeatedly appealed to the public not to judge their daughter too harshly. They claim the young woman responsible for the crash was not the Stephanie they knew due to her secret alcohol abuse issues and depression. Despite their pleas, Judge Katherine Gorman sided with the prosecution’s portrayal of Melgoza as an entitled and remoreseless criminal whose crocodile tears for leniency rang hollow.
Ultimately reactions ranged from outraged to empathetic, disgusted to forgiving. But the harshest views came from those who lost loved ones. Andrea Rosewicz’s sister, Beth, gave a victim impact statement at sentencing calling Melgoza a “monster” who deserved “no mercy” for robbing her family of Andrea. For those most directly impacted by the tragedy, no punishment can ever atone for the permanent absence left by such preventable deaths.
Where is Stephanie Melgoza Now?
Following her sentencing on March 1st, 2023, Stephanie Melgoza was transported to Illinois Department of Corrections Women’s Prison in Decatur, IL. She has been processed into the system and begun serving her 14 year sentence behind bars. As a young, first-time inmate, Melgoza faces substantial risks of assault from other prisoners. She has reportedly been kept isolated from general population housing thus far for her own protection based on the notoriety of her highly publicized case.
Melgoza fills her days with prison work programs, spiritual guidance, counseling, and supervised outdoor recreation. She continues to have no direct contact with her previous life outside those prison walls beyond monitored family visits and legal correspondence. Melgoza will also remain stripped of social media, smart devices, and access to the celebrity status she once held for at least the next decade and a half.
The families of Paul Prowant and Andrea Rosewicz continue civil litigation against Melgoza for wrongful death from behind bars. She will likely face further financial consequences upon any potential release after her full 14 year sentence. In the meantime, thoughts remain with Rosewicz and Prowant’s loved ones left to mourn their loss and forge a path forward without them.
The tragic story of Stephanie Melgoza stands as a reminder about the devastating toll impaired driving takes across the United States every year. By understanding all facets of this preventable tragedy we hope everyone reflects more on their own actions behind the wheel. The loss of Andrea Rosewicz and Paul Prowant demands heightened awareness so that some good can still come from such a heartbreaking loss.