SOUTH HAVEN (WWJ/AP) - A man charged in the deaths of a woman and two young children in a southwestern Michigan traffic crash has been ordered to stand trial.
David Glen Johnson appeared Wednesday for a preliminary examination in Van Buren County. He’s due back in court Dec. 27. The 32-year-old is charged with second-degree murder and operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death.
The Nov. 13 crash happened just after 7 p.m. in Geneva Township, about 50 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.
Brittney Renee King, 24, of Bangor, died in the crash along with two of her passengers, 2-year-old Kandice Berryhill and 4-year-old Cassadi Berryhill, both of South Haven. Another passenger in her car, the children’s 24-year-old father Justin Berryhill of Grand Junction, was hospitalized in stable condition after the crash.
According to witnesses, Johnson was heading westbound and tried to pass a car in an oncoming lane when he collided head-on with the car driven by King.
Police said the children weren’t riding in child safety seats, but instead were wearing lap belts in the rear seat of the car. They also said King, Justin Berryhill and Johnson weren’t wearing seat belts.
Johnson, who was driving with a suspended license, told investigators he had been drinking alcohol before the crash. Tests showed that Johnson’s blood-alcohol content was 0.32 percent, four times the legal limit for driving.
Police said Johnson has seven prior convictions for driving with a suspended license, as well as a previous conviction for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. King’s driver’s license also was suspended at the time of the crash, state records showed.
Defense lawyer Darrell Fahey said “intervening issues,” not just the actions of Johnson, played a role in the crash. A pathologist testified that King had high levels of heroin and the narcotic pain medication Tramadol in her system.
Fahey also quoted testimony from a state police crash reconstructionist who said he believed the toddlers would have survived the crash if they had been in child-restraint seats.
Despite Fahey’s arguments, the judge ruled there was enough evidence to order Johnson to stand trial on 11 felonies.
Van Buren County authorities have said Johnson is from Alabama, but a court filing lists his hometown as Grand Junction, Mich.
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