Family mourns loss of teen killed in crash; driver sentenced

PAW PAW, Mich. — When Stephanie Yeider approached the podium, the clerk who escorted her asked the judge if it could be turned toward Demos Johnson. Yeider then stood behind it and looked at him.

“I stand before you today as an advocate of our beloved deceased son,” said Yeider in front of a packed Van Buren County courtroom. “I did not choose this role. I will attempt to describe the enormous void that has existed in our lives since June 17, 2017.”

According to the county’s sheriff’s office, Yeider’s son Alex was killed in a car crash that day in Antwerp Township. The police reports stated that Johnson was driving over the  speed limit when he flew past a stop sign and crashed into Yeider’s vehicle. In May, Johnson was found guilty of reckless driving causing death. Monday morning was his sentencing.

“It is with great sadness that I stand before you before this court to tell about the impact of the loss of Alex Yeider,” said Alex’s aunt Nancy Orr-Depner. “I’m glad that you’re looking at me. I wanted you to.”

Johnson, 19, stood next to his defense attorney with his hands folded as he listened to the Yeider family speak about Alex. Jessi Niles talked bout the joy she felt on February 20, 1987 when 4-month-old Alex arrived from Seoul, South Korea to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. And how she’ll never forget the night she received the phone call that he died.

“You abruptly ended his life, stripped him of all of his dignity and ability to donate his organs,” said Niles at the podium. “Not one of his previously young, healthy, strong body was viable for organ donation after you killed.”

Niles was the last to speak for the family. When Judge Kathleen Brickley asked if there’s anything he’d like to say he turned and faced them.

“I feel very bad about what has happened,” Johnson said. “The image of Alex and the damage to his vehicle will forever be burned in my brain.”

Judge Brickley then sentenced Johnson to 19 months to 15 years in prison. He was handcuffed in the courtroom and escorted out of the room. The Yeider family watching him as he walked out.

“I don’t usually wish hurt on people,” said Yeider after court. “But he’s going to pay something for what he’s done to our son.”

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