Court: Drunk man blames other driver for fatal accident

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 30, 2013 

Chris Turner

After a Saturday night spent drinking from a mason jar full of brandy, Chris Turner sped toward the Burger King for some food and crashed into another vehicle, killing one woman and leaving behind a debris field of more than 150 feet, according to court testimony Monday.

Turner, 23, faces a dozen charges, including homicide by vehicle, driving under the influence, reckless driving and five counts of disorderly contact.

Turner pled not guilty to all charges in Columbus Recorder’s Court.

At about 3:45 a.m., Turner’s 2011 Jetta collided with the right-rear passenger side of a 2004 Kia Optima as it turned left onto Buena Vista Road.

One of the three passengers was ejected from the Kia. Shavonna Johnson, a 26-year-old resident of Willow Bend Run, was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma to her torso while undergoing surgery at Midtown Medical Center, said Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan.

Turner’s vehicle spun several times after the collision, traveling more than 400 feet.

Neither he nor Johnson were wearing seat belts, according to officials.

Turner was detained at the scene. According to police testimony, he smelled strongly of alcohol. His blood alcohol content was tested at .105.

At the scene, Turner gave his name as “Trey,” though he was later correctly identified by police.

In a statement at the time, Turner allegedly told officers he had been drinking that night from a mason jar filled half with brandy and half with water. He was driving to a Burger King for some food when he hit the second vehicle.

Turner estimated his speed at no more than 60 miles per hour.

But Corporal Raymond Mills, one of the arresting officers, estimated Turner’s speed at almost 100.

“(Johnson) took the full brunt of 98 miles per hour,” Mills said.

Mills testified that Turner continued to explain that he was a “lightweight” and that he was only guilty of drinking and driving. The accident, Turner allegedly said, was the other driver’s fault.

The testimony was heard by a crowded court room. More than once, attendees left shaken. As the hearing finished, crying could be heard just outside.

The Optima’s driver, Jasmine Pride, said in court that she was unable to see how fast he was going that night. Before turning, she testified that she saw the lights of his car two red lights away.

Both vehicles suffered significant damage in the crash.

Turner continued to be disorderly after being taken from the scene, Cpl. Rosalyn Hall testified in court.

His hand was injured, but Hall said the Midtown Medical Center refused to treat him after he was repeatedly vulgar and unruly toward nurses and others.

In Hall’s office, Turner pushed her and a captain; he again blamed the accident on the Optima for turning out in front of him.

Turner did not make a statement in court.

Judge Michael Joyner set a $100,000 bond for the homicide by vehicle charge, $1,500 for the DUI, $600 for driving with a suspended license, $500 for reckless driving, $250 for obstruction of an officer, $50 for a seat belt violation, $250 for each of the five counts of disorderly conduct and $250 for giving false information.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified both vehicles as Jettas.

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