The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Crime & Courts

June 24, 2013

Driver pleads guilty in crash that killed two MSSU athletes

JOPLIN, Mo. — A guilty plea was entered Monday in Jasper County Circuit Court by the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that killed two Missouri Southern State University football players in December 2011.

Jeremy Johnson, 21, of Harrison, Ark., pleaded guilty to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Diondre Johnson and Michael McCrimmons, both 19 and from Springfield. Jeremy Johnson and Patrick Holt, of Benton, Ark., were injured in the accident on Interstate 44 near Sarcoxie. All four were Missouri Southern athletes at the time.

Circuit Judge Gayle Crane set sentencing for Aug. 19.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the accident happened at about 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2011, when a sport utility vehicle driven by Jeremy Johnson ran off the intestate’s westbound lanes and into the median cables two miles east of Sarcoxie. The vehicle overturned and came to rest in the eastbound passing lane of the interstate.

Diondre Johnson was thrown from the vehicle, the patrol said, while McCrimmons and Holt were inside the vehicle when it was struck by an eastbound tractor-trailer. The patrol said Jeremy Johnson was walking across the eastbound driving lane when he was hit by an eastbound car.

Jeremy Johnson in July 2012 pleaded innocent to the manslaughter charges. A probable-cause statement filed in Jasper County Circuit Court alleged that his blood-alcohol content after the accident was 0.11 percent. The legal limit in Missouri for drivers is 0.08 percent.

A series of lawsuits has been filed as a result of the accident.

Dionna Johnson, mother of Diondre Johnson, has filed a wrongful death suit against Jeremy Johnson and against the owner of the Springfield nightclub where the athletes were before the crash. In the lawsuit, she contends that the nightclub served alcohol to Jeremy Johnson, who was 19 at the time.

In addition, Larry McCrimmons, the father of Michael McCrimmons, has filed suit against Jeremy Johnson, and against the company that owned the tractor-trailer and the driver. In the lawsuit, McCrimmons contends that Jeremy Johnson caused the accident by driving at excessive speed.

Holt also has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Jeremy Johnson, the owner of the trucking company and the driver of the tractor-trailer.

Venue change

DIONNA JOHNSON’S LAWSUIT against Jeremy Johnson and the Springfield nightclub originally was filed in Greene County Circuit Court. A motion by the defense to move the case to Jasper County on a change of venue was granted in January.

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