Illinois police: Minnesota woman 'one of America's worst DUI offenders'
RIVERSIDE, Ill. — An Illinois police chief dubbed a woman with ties to Rochester as "one of America’s worst offenders" after his department arrested her for drunken driving this week.
Riverside Police Chief Tom Weitzel said the woman’s behavior, her arrest, and the ensuing investigation that turned up a decade’s worth of DUI arrests point to a concerning pattern of behavior.
Tasha Lynn Schleicher, 41, who lists a New Hope address, is in custody in Riverside, Ill. after authorities found her intoxicated at a gas station, with an open bottle of whiskey in the passenger seat on Monday night. The incident started at 9:27 p.m., when a witness at the gas station called police because Schleicher had apparently passed out in her car.
By the time officers arrived, she had regained consciousness and was attempting to fill her car with a pump that contained kerosene, rather than gasoline. The officer who approached her noted that she was "in total disarray," barefoot, with her clothes falling off, according to Weitzel.
Schleicher later told authorities that she was staying in Illinois hotels after dropping her 15-year-old son off in Indiana so that he could "party" during his spring break, he said. She told responding officers that she had 11 children and "couldn’t find them." They searched the area, including local hotels, but didn’t locate any children. Witnesses at the gas station told police that she’d arrived alone in the vehicle.
After refusing a field sobriety test, Schleicher became "very uncooperative and combative" when officers arrested her. Officers resorted to fingerprinting Schleicher to confirm her identity, after she lied to officers about "every detail" of her personal information, Weitzel said. That background check took an entire day, he added.
‘One of the worst’
Weitzel said he believes Schleicher was resistant because her record paints a picture of "extreme" alcohol abuse that took place across the country.
"She is literally one of the worst DUI offenders we have ever dealt with," he said.
Schleicher’s record, according to the Riverside Police Department’s search, includes three active warrants in Nebraska, Idaho and Oregon — two of which are related to drunken driving charges. Her record is littered with DUI arrests — six times in six states — in Kentucky, Wisconsin, Indiana, California, Oregon and Minnesota.
In September 2017, Schleicher was arrested in Rochester while allegedly driving drunk with five of her children — ages infant to 9 — in the car with her. She continued driving after a collision with a guardrail caused a flat tire, according to Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kirby Long.
She eventually pulled over. When deputies arrived, she was reportedly nursing the infant. Schleicher told deputies that she had five other children at home, Long said.
She was arrested and a preliminary breath test indicated a blood alcohol reading of 0.16, twice the legal limit to drive in Minnesota. After that arrest, 10 of her children were placed in foster homes.
Schleicher was charged in Olmsted County District Court with two counts of first-degree DWI and five counts of endangerment of a child, all gross misdemeanors; as well as driving without a valid license and failure to notify owner of damage to property, both misdemeanors. She pleaded not guilty to all of those charges in January, and her jury trial is set to begin on Monday.
Court records show Schleicher has two other active cases in Minnesota. One of those is a set of DUI charges in Hennepin County for an incident that occurred just a month after her Rochester arrest. Bloomington Police found Schleicher unconscious in her running vehicle around 1:25 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2017. A preliminary breath test indicated a blood alcohol concentration of 0.124, according to court documents.
After Illinois officials identified Schleicher earlier this week, she didn’t just admit her lengthy list of encounters with law enforcement — she began to brag about it, Weitzel said.
"She told us to Google her," Weitzel said, referencing an interview the Post Bulletin did with Schleicher, following her September 2017 DUI arrest in Rochester. "Because she’s kind of proud of her notoriety."
‘In need of some serious intervention’
In her October 2017 interview with the Post Bulletin, Schleicher took responsibility for her troubling pattern of behavior, and for losing her children. But she couldn’t quite pinpoint what led her to drink — and to drive with five children in the car — that September day.
Schleicher told the Post Bulletin that she moved to Rochester in 2017 to complete chemical dependency treatment, but said she suffered severe postpartum depression after the birth of her 11th child on Aug. 25, 2017.
"Everyone has choices to make every day, so I can make the choice to get better," Schleicher said during that interview, indicating a willingness to seek treatment and help. "I don’t know what to tell you: I’m worried about the kids; that’s my main thing. I hope we can receive the counseling and help we need to make us all better, healthier people."
But Weitzel said her behavior seems to indicate otherwise.
"She does need to be held accountable," Weitzel said, noting he thinks jail or prison would be a fitting punishment. "But she’s in need of some serious intervention."
Olmsted County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Behns echoed that sentiment. "We need to hold her responsible for her actions," he said, noting if she misses her Monday court date, they’ll likely issue an arrest warrant.
"As far as helping her, she’s got to want to get help," Behrns said. "If she doesn’t, it’s not going to happen."
Weitzel said he personally called the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office to advise them of the arrest, and of Schleicher’s "immediate" need for social service intervention and professional medical attention for her "severe alcohol abuse." Authorities there have also seized her vehicle, he said.
Behrns said her car was also seized after her arrest in Minnesota, but an advocacy group apparently paid to repair it, and then sold it back to the family. "That’s not helping, that’s enabling," he said.
Schleicher has been charged in Cook County Court with two counts of felony aggravated drunken driving, two counts of misdemeanor drunken driving, no vehicle insurance, driving with a revoked license and transportation of open alcohol while driving, according to Weitzel.
She is being held on $15,000 bond in Cook County. Her next appearance is set for April 9 — the same day she is due back in Olmsted County District Court for her September 2017 DUI arrest.
"She is in need of some type of medical or counseling intervention," Weitzel said. "And if it has to be forced on her, it needs to be forced on her."