GENEVA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - Charges are expected to eventually be filed against the Alabama driver who told police he'd been drinking before he slammed a pickup truck head-on into a car on a Van Buren County road, killing a woman and two young children.
The driver has been identified as David Glen Johnson II by his great-grandmother Lela Taylor.
The wreck happened just after 7 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Phoenix Road/County Road 388 and 62nd Street in Geneva Township. The driver of a Ford F-150 sped up, crossed the center line to pass an Oldsmobile Alero and collided head-on with a Pontiac Grand Prix. The pickup truck then struck the Alero.
The driver of the Grand Prix, Brittney King, died. She was 24. Cassadi Berryhill, 4, and Kandice Berryhill, 2, also died from their injuries. Their father, 24-year-old Justin Berryhill, remains hospitalized.
"They told me he was drinking that's all that's all I know," Taylor said about the wreck. "I figured he was when I heard about the accident he must have been drinking."
Johnson "admitted that he had consumed alcohol prior to the crash," according to a news release from the sheriff's department, and smelled of alcohol, deputies said.
Taylor said she recently learned her great-grandson, whom she calls Buddy, has a drinking problem.
"Yeah, I think he is [an alcoholic]. I didn't want to believe, it but that's what everybody would tell me you know and I talked to him about it about quitting drinking and all and he tried to quit but he couldn't," said Taylor.
She said both of his parents had drinking problems and he spent much of his childhood with relatives. She described to 24 Hour News 8 a conversation she had recently had with him about his drinking.
"I said, 'Buddy, please don't be drinking when you're driving this truck,' and he said 'I won't, Grandma,' but [he's an] alcoholic," said Taylor.
She also said she had tried to talk to Johnson about his drinking problem in the past.
"I talked to him about it and he said 'Grandma, I only drink a couple beers.' That's what he told me -- I don't know."
The 32-year-old Johnson sustained several broken bones and lacerations in the crash, and is in stable condition at a hospital. Taylor said he has facial, ankle and rib injuries and had to undergo surgery, but is expected to be okay.
Family said Johnson doesn't yet know anyone was killed in the wreck.
When 24 Hour News 8 asked Taylor how she thought her great grandson would handle the information, Taylor replied, "He's not going to deal with that, not if he's in his right mind, he ain't."
She then broke down in tears.
"He wasn't a monster, like everyone's making him out to be," one cousin who went to the site of the crash told 24 Hour News 8. "He didn't set out to do this. This wasn't a goal. I'm a victim of drunk driving myself. He loved kids."
The Ford F-150 he was driving is registered in Michigan, and Johnson is originally from Michigan but did live in Alabama for awhile, according to Taylor.
Taylor told 24 Hour News 8 that Johnson had recently started a new job, and had been staying with her and his grandmother, on and off, for several months. She said he was helping them out with medication, cooking and cleaning, and came to stay with them after he and his wife became estranged.
"He hasn't done right since his wife got pregnant by his cousin," she said. "He left. I guess he just couldn't handle it."
She said he had called her just minutes before the crash to tell her he was on his way home.
She described him as a good boy who used to go to church with her and his great-grandfather.
"He was a good little boy," Taylor said. "I don't know what happened to him."
She went on to say that he does have many friends, and that he tried to help others out.
"All I can say is he was always a good boy and done everything for anybody he could," said Taylor.
Johnson has a prior conviction for operating under the influence of liquor and a prior conviction for operating while impaired by liquor, police said. He currently has a suspended driver's license and has seven prior convictions for driving on a suspended license.
When 24 Hour News 8 asked Taylor if she had anything to say to the families of the victims, she teared up again and said, "I just don't know what to say or what to do."
Van Buren County investigators said they'll ask for several charges to be filed against Johnson, including operating while intoxicated causing death.
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