Commonwealth v. Jerode Demetrius Johnson; Drunk Driver Kills High School Senior, Severely Injures Another: 47 Years to Serve

Monday, September 10, 2018

Colin D. Stolle, Commonwealth's Attorney for the city of Virginia Beach, announced that Jerome Demetrius Johnson, 32 years old, formerly of the 4500 block of Hampshire Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia, was sentenced today by Circuit Court Judge H. Thomas Padrick for Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter, DUI – Victim Permanently Impaired, Hit and Run, DUI, Possession of Schedule I/II Drug, and Drive on Suspended Operator's License.  Judge Padrick sentenced Johnson to serve 47 years in prison. This sentence was significantly higher than the Virginia State Sentencing Guidelines' recommendation, which called for a sentence no greater than 11 years and 1 month.   ​

Johnson pled guilty on May 1, 2018. Had this matter gone to trial, the Commonwealth's evidence would have proven that on Friday May 19, 2017, at approximately 3:19 p.m., Jerode Demetrius Johnson was driving on Indian River Road in the City of Virginia Beach when he crossed the double yellow center lines, striking a Honda CR-V head-on. Kaitlyn Duffy, an 18-year-old high school student driving the vehicle struck by Johnson, was killed in the crash. Her passenger, who was a close friend and also an 18-year-old high school student, was severely injured. 

Johnson was driving a box style furniture delivery truck that was loaded with furniture, and his father was a passenger in the truck. The weight of the truck and furniture was approximately 10,000 pounds.  Prior to the crash, a witness observed Johnson weaving in and out of his lane, slowing down and speeding up, and randomly applying his brakes as he tailgated other cars.  As he avoided driving off the road into a ditch, he overcorrected and struck Duffy's CR-V head-on.  Impact marks in the asphalt show that the crash occurred fully in Duffy's lane of travel.  Duffy died almost immediately, and her passenger suffered a traumatic brain injury and a severe injury to her left arm. She continues to suffer functional cognitive deficits as a result of the brain injury, and her left arm is permanently scarred and cannot be straightened from a 60-degree angle at the elbow. Duffy's puppy was in the backseat of the car and was also killed in the crash. Witnesses described that Duffy was not speeding and was driving appropriately prior to the crash. Both she and the passenger were wearing their seatbelts.

After the crash, Johnson crawled out of the furniture truck, checked on his father, and then went to the victim's car, running through the brush to approach the passenger side where witnesses were attending to the victims. A bag of cocaine was located behind a tree the next day in the area where Johnson had emerged from the brush.

As police and rescue personnel arrived on the scene, Johnson ran behind a nearby house, where he was detained. A police officer noted that he smelled of alcohol, had slurred and incoherent speech, that his eyes were bloodshot and watery, that he was sweating profusely, that he covered his mouth with a wet t-shirt as he spoke to the officer, and that he was swaying as he stood and leaned on objects for support. He told the officer he had four (4) to five (5) Mike's Hard Lemonades at 2 a.m. that morning, and that he had two (2) drinks of alcohol that day sometime after 11 a.m. He failed field sobriety tests administered by police.

On the way to the jail, Johnson requested to be taken to the hospital where he was treated for minor injuries. At the hospital, blood was drawn for diagnosis and treatment. Forensic testing and analysis showed that Johnson's blood alcohol level at the time of the crash was between .12 and .16, and that he had THC (marijuana), Benzoylecgonine (cocaine metabolite), and Diazepam & Nordiazepam (Valium metabolites) in his blood.  At the time of the crash, Johnson's license was suspended.

Johnson has prior convictions for Possession of Schedule I/II Drug, Drunk in Public, Concealed Weapon, Discharge a Firearm, and Driving on a Revoked or Suspended License (5 counts). 

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney David W. Laird and Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Wendy Alexander prosecuted this case. Please contact Macie Allen if additional information is desired.