Michelle Cormelita-Mendoza Lerma has been bound over to stand trial in the Kent County Circuit Court for the accidental death of 58-year-old Gregory Johnson of Grass Lake.
According to the Michigan State Police officers who responded to the scene, the accident took place on September 14th shortly before 3 am. The 40-year-old Wyoming woman was said to have been driving the wrong way on westbound I-96 near Grand Rapids, causing her 2010 Saturn SUV to collide at high speed with Johnson’s 2004 Hyundai.
According to an MSP accident reconstructionist, Lerma was travelling at about 75 mph, and the impact of the two vehicles in the fatal crash was sufficient to cause both cars to catch fire, and Johnson to lose his life. Lerma was pulled from the burning wreckage of her car by a civilian who stopped to offer help. Johnson, however, was not so lucky. By the time help arrived, his vehicle was completely engulfed in flames.
Lerma was transported to Mercy Health St. Mary’s Hospital after the crash for treatment of her injuries, however officials say none of the injuries she suffered was life threatening. Tests conducted just after the accident show that Lerma’s blood alcohol content was 0.196, which is in excess of Michigan’s .17. making her legally a ‘super’ drunk driver.
Lerma chose to waive her preliminary hearing and the judge then bound her over for trial, although no actual date has been scheduled yet. She is facing a charge of operating while intoxicated causing death, which is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a possible fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Michigan State Police say that there is nothing that can be done by law enforcement to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. However, they are requesting that all drivers who encounter another vehicle travelling the wrong way on the road call 911 immediately. They say that the sooner this information reaches dispatch and is relayed to officers nearby, the sooner a possible crash and potential death can be averted.