Man convicted of killing boy in DUI crash doesn’t believe alcohol was only factor

Nov 8, 2022, 4:55 PM | Updated: Nov 18, 2022, 5:40 pm
The new Utah State Prison is pictured in Salt Lake City on Oct. 21, 2021. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret N...
The new Utah State Prison is pictured in Salt Lake City on Oct. 21, 2021. (Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)
(Kristin Murphy/Deseret News)

UTAH STATE PRISON — Carl “CJ” Wayne Johnson doesn’t deny he hit and killed a 4-year-old boy in a crosswalk in 2019 while driving with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit.

But the Salt Lake man doesn’t believe alcohol was the only factor in the tragic incident.

“I kind of maintain I was not drunk, I was not stumbling drunk,” Johnson, 59, told the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole on Tuesday. “My vision was (obstructed) as I went into that intersection.

“It was simply an accident. It was my fault. It was a car accident and it was my fault. … I’m really sorry about what happened,” he added. “It was just negligence on my part, I guess.”

However, Marshall Thompson, the board’s vice chairman who conducted Tuesday’s hearing, told Johnson that what happened was no accident.

“You chose to drink, you chose to drive,” Thompson said.

Brett Curtis, the father of Holden Curtis, agreed.

“He made a choice that day to drink and drive. He could have said no. We could all say no,” he told the board emotionally.

On Nov. 16, 2019, Holden and his mother, Ashlee Loscher, were in crosswalk at the intersection of 900 W. California Ave. when they were hit by a GMC truck driven by Johnson. Holden was killed. Loscher suffered a broken femur.

“The truck continued to drive as the little boy’s bike was wrapped underneath the truck,” charging documents state.

On March 13, 2020, Johnson was convicted of automobile homicide and sentenced to a term of one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison. On Tuesday, he went before the board of pardons seeking parole.

Johnson showed little emotion during the hearing. Thompson noted that he had not had any disciplinary violations since being incarcerated. But what concerned Thompson is that Johnson’s most recent risk assessment evaluation was up, in part because evaluators believe his susceptibility to drinking alcohol if he were to be released is still high, as well as his bad attitude toward his situation.

Furthermore, Johnson is expected to complete a substance abuse program before he will be released from prison. But twice he has started the program and did not finish it, Thompson noted Tuesday. Johnson contends it was because of COVID-19 related issues.

“My respiratory problems are a lot worse than they’ve ever been,” he told the board. “I’m in pretty bad shape as far as that goes.”

Johnson also maintained several times during the hearing that drinking “was a factor but not the only factor” in the crash and that the sun reflecting off a nearby building got in his eyes. And despite being convicted of DUI in 1988 and 1989, and pleading guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving in 1999 that was originally filed as a DUI, he said he does not believe he had a drinking problem.

“I feel pretty good about where I’m at. I want to start over and live sober and that’s what my plan is,” he told the broad. “I’m planning on living sober. I’ve put a lot of thought into it. I think I’m done with that.”

Brett Curtis, however, doesn’t believe Johnson.

“I think he is only saying things he wants you to hear,” he told the board.

Curtis said he had driven through that intersection thousands of times and “never, not once, ever had the sun glaring me in the eyes.”

He also said he doesn’t like reliving that tragic day, but he needed to address the board on Tuesday for his son.

“I have never, nor will I ever, go back to that intersection because of that day,” he told Thompson. “I think (Johnson) needs to be punished, and I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.”

He ended his comments by emotionally saying, “Man, I miss Holden! Man, I miss him every single day!”

When asked if he wanted to respond to Curtis’ comments, Johnson said, “I’m very sorry and I do know what it’s like to lose a child. … It leaves a space in your life that will never be filled and I would not wish that on anybody, and I’m very, very sorry.”

Johnson said he’s been “reflective” while incarcerated about what happened and believes he has “a pretty good plan going forward.”

But Thompson said he believes the risk assessment score given to Johnson is “spot on.”

“You do have a bit of a bad attitude on things,” he told Johnson while adding that needs to change before he is released.

The full five-member board will now vote on whether to grant parole, a decision that could take up to a month.

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Man convicted of killing boy in DUI crash doesn’t believe alcohol was only factor