MADISON, Wis. — Prosecutors have charged a former Fitchburg City Council candidate in connection with the July death of Wisconsin Public Media Director Gene Purcell.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported 31-year-old Shawnicia Youmas was charged Tuesday with homicide by negligent driving, a felony.
According to a criminal complaint, Youmas’ vehicle collided with Purcell’s motorcycle near the Wisconsin Public Broadcasting building in Madison on the afternoon of July 27. Data from the air bag control module in her car showed she was traveling nearly 65 mph 1.5 seconds before the collision. The speed limit in the area was 30 mph.
Youmas estimated she was traveling 35 to 40 mph behind Purcell. According to the complaint, she said Purcell was swerving ahead of her and appeared confused. She said he cut in front of her, although she added she may have tried to pass him before the crash.
Traffic cameras showed Purcell traveling in a normal fashion, although the footage didn’t capture the crash itself.
Purcell was a longtime figure in public broadcasting in Wisconsin. In 2018 he became director of Wisconsin Public Media, which operates Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television.
Youmas won a three-way primary in February for a seat on the Fitchburg council but dropped out of the race because she planned to move. Former Mayor Jay Allen was ultimately elected to the seat on April 6.
Youmas is due to make her initial court appearnace on Jan. 6. Online court records didn’t list an attorney for her.