PAW PAW, Mich. — When Demos Johnson took the stand Wednesday afternoon at the Van Buren County Courthouse, Stephanie Yeider, and a few other loved ones, began to cry. Her son Alex was killed in a car crash last summer in Antwerp Township. Police said Johnson was the driver of the other vehicle.
"I'm sorry I can't remember what happened in the accident,” Johnson said on the stand when asked about the crash.
The county’s sheriff’s office said on June 17, 2017, Johnson blew past a stop sign and slammed into Alex at 32nd and 45th streets. Johnson testified Wednesday that he told deputies that day that he was traveling at a “high rate of speed,” talking to his friend Jack Hurst and that he did not see a stop sign ahead of them.
“It was as we were passing the stop sign,” he said about the moment he saw the stop sign. “I had just taken my eyes off Jack after taking a second to look at him, when I was talking, and as I was looking back that is when I noticed the stop sign."
Prosecutor Mike Bedford stated, during his closing arguments, that Johnson's decision to blow past the stop sign, while speeding, was “willful and wanton disregard.”
“When you disregard a stop sign in a 55 mile-per-hour zone, that’s the willful, wanton, that’s the extreme danger that you are exposing anyone that has the right of way,” Bedford said.
Bedford also pointed out that Johnson committed the same act 35 days prior to the crash, on May 13, 2017. He said Johnson and his girlfriend were headed to prom that night when he flew past a stop sign in Kalamazoo and crashed into a van with children in it.
Defense attorney Nichole Dunfield noted to the jury that Bedford called that crash “violent” but nobody testified to that during trial. She said that she believed her client was careless on June 17, 2017 but not reckless.
“He did not get up here and say he did anything wrong,” Dunfield said to the jury. “What we are arguing is that what he did was mere carelessness, granted a greater degree, maybe more severe, but it does not rise to the level of a complete disregard.”
Jury deliberations resume Thursday morning.