Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Police: Impaired Unlicensed Teen in Back-to-School Accident, Kills 4

Matthew Dejarnett's vehicle after the crash.

Matthew Dejarnett's vehicle after the crash.

In a bizarre tragedy out of Phoenix, Arizona, an unlicensed teen, who police believe was under the influence, was taking his six younger siblings to their first day of school on August 5, 2013, when he swerved into oncoming traffic and crashed, killing three of his younger brothers and the other driver.

Police say the teen driver, 16, who was driving a minivan packed full of kids, hit an oncoming vehicle head-on. What’s left of that vehicle can be seen above. According to Phoenix Police Sergeant Trent Crump, the teen, whose name is not being released, was moving “at a high rate of speed,” and passing vehicles on the right by driving on the shoulder at the point where the two-lane road narrowed down to one lane. Police believe the teen over corrected when moving back into the left lane and crossed the double line crashing into the oncoming vehicle of Matthew Dejarnett, 31, student and husband. Unlike the passengers in the minivan, Dejarnett, whose airbag did deploy, was reportedly wearing his seat belt. Even so, he died at the hospital the next day. Police say a car seat in the van was not installed correctly.

The wreck of the minivan after the accident.

The wreck of the minivan after the accident.

The collision smashed the passenger side of the minivan ejecting at least three of the children. One of the teen’s siblings was pronounced dead at the scene, two others at the hospital. They are Dominic Johnson, 4; Mikquan Johnson, 5; and Jaymon Hamilton 11. Crump said that a younger sister, 3, is in critical condition, while the teen and remaining two sisters, 14 and 12 sustained “incapacitating injuries.” The teen driver and 14-year-old sister were released from the hospital the day after the accident.

Because drug recognition experts  at the scene believed that the young driver exhibited signs of impairment, a warrant was issued and his blood drawn for testing. Police will not receive the results of those blood tests for weeks, and the investigation is likely to go well beyond the statute of limitations for traffic citations. Because there were deaths in the accident, however, police are willing to forego issuing traffic citations against the surviving driver, and plan on filing criminal charges instead. None of the reports mention the teen’s parents.

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