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Paw Paw family ‘relieved’ after suspect in son’s crash was found guilty

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PAW PAW, Mich. — When the foreperson stood up Thursday morning and stated aloud that the jury found the defendant Demos Johnson “guilty” of reckless driving causing death, Stephanie Yeider burst into tears. When each juror said that “guilty” was their verdict as well, she clutched a picture of her son Alex to her chest and whispered “thank you.”

“I’m so relieved,” said Stephanie during an interview after court. “I am so comforted to know that he is going to pay for the crime of killing our son.”

Stephanie sat next to Alex’s father George, his sister Jessi Niles and his fiancé Jinny Wedel, who were all in tears and holding each other when the verdict was read.  And as soon as Johnson exited the courtroom, they stood up, hugged other loved ones and continued to cry.

“I appreciate the whole court system and the support that we’ve had,” said Jessi. “I just am glad to see that he’s been convicted as guilty.”

According to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office report, Alex Yeider was killed in a crash on June 17, 2017 when Demos Johnson, who was 18 years old at the time, blew past a stop sign in Antwerp Township and slammed into Yeider’s vehicle at the intersection of 32nd and 45th Avenue. Since then, life has been "rough" for the Yeiders, they said.

“We can start to really grieve,” Stephanie said. “We’re not focused on anger and hate.”

Demos Johnson hung his head when the verdict was read. The verdict comes after only two days of trial and an hour of deliberation.

“I was outside taking a walk and I just come back in and they said that they reached a verdict,” said George, Alex’s father. “I was surprised because of the issue that they had to remove a juror and put the alternate back in.”

Before court proceedings began Judge Kathleen Brickley received a note from the foreperson that a juror conducted her own outside investigation, which was prohibited. Brickley called her into the courtroom and asked her about it. After she admitted to it, she was removed and an alternate was sworn. In an hour, the jury had their verdict.

“It’s a good day,” said George. “It was very, very quick verdict from the jury and we’re very happy.”

Sentencing has been scheduled for June 25, a week after the anniversary of the crash. Alex's loved ones said they'll be there and they've already got their statements written for Johnson to hear.

“I wish that this meant he was coming back to us as closure,” said Jinny with tears in her eyes. “But it’s ok. Justice is served.”

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