Crime & Courts

After DUI crash killed mom and 2 kids, driver sentenced to 14 years for murder charge

A Texas man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to murder in a DUI crash that killed a Kansas mother and her two children.

Steven W. Johnson, 45, of Houston, pleaded guilty in March to one count of second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a release.

Johnson was sentenced Friday to 174 months, or 14 1/2 years, in prison on the murder charge and 41 months each on the two involuntary manslaughter charges by Judge Steven L. Hornbaker, the release said. Combined, the sentences add up to 21 years and 4 months in prison.

The charges stemmed from a fatal crash on I-70 in November 2016 that killed a Kansas woman and her children, the release said.

Before the crash, Jessica Michelle Thompson, 26, of Junction City, had taken her son and daughter out of school for a medical appointment. They were returning when a large box truck driven by Johnson crossed the median of I-70 and crashed into the family's vehicle in Geary County, Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner said at the time.

Thompson and her 5-year-old daughter Leah Michelle Thompson died at the scene. Jaydon Allan Thompson, 6, died at a hospital.

Michelle Martin, Jessica Thompson's mother, testified in court that "family was everything" for her daughter, the Junction City Post reported.

"They're gone, they're never coming back," Martin said. "No parents should have to bury their loved ones one day before Thanksgiving."

Johnson's younger brother, Jonathan Johnson, apologized to Thompson's family in court and asked for forgiveness, citing a Bible verse, the Junction City Daily Union reported.

"You have every right to hate me, and feel the way you do," Steven Johnson told the family in court.

Gardner said in a Twitter video that he attended Johnson's Friday sentencing.

"I listened to so much heartache," he said. "Heartache and testimony from mothers and fathers and husbands about their lost loved ones and all the missed opportunities they're going to have.

"I listened to the defendant's families talk about all the missed opportunities that they will no longer have with their father being in prison. I watched as the judge emotionally broke down in front of us, speaking of the difficulties of these cases."

Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner speaks about the sentencing of Steven Johnson on murder and manslaughter charges after the DUI crash that killed Jessica, Jaydon and Leah Thompson in a video posted to his Twitter account on June 1, 2018.