No deaths in Joseph Johnston’s alleged traffic rampage, Illinois to Indiana, Friday 04.16.10
WHITE/POSEY COs.—A New Haven man is currently (04.19.10) behind bars in Posey County, Indiana after what can only be called a driving rampage out of his home town, wherein he crossed the river and traveled into Indiana on highway 141 at a high rate of speed, leaving wrecked and/or damaged vehicles in his wake…but, miraculously, no deaths.
Johnston, 31, is a registered sex offender living in New Haven (which sits in both White and Gallatin counties); there, local residents term him “dangerous” to the small river town where his driving habits are concerned.
While Disclosure has not yet received Gallatin County reports, it’s been indicated by several Gallatin-side New Haven residents that at some point in time Friday, Johnston created a disturbance at the home of a woman (whose name will be withheld for now) who went to her boyfriend’s brother’s house (these names will also be withheld for now), frantic and claiming that Johnston had tried to rape her. The boyfriend’s brother reportedly dialed 911 because Johnston was reportedly actually at this house raising hell. At that point, Johnston reportedly ran over to the American Legion, where he was told to leave because of his behavior. The Legion also reportedly called for law enforcement, although it’s unclear if they dialed 911 or called directly to Gallatin County sheriff’s department.
Witnesses report that Johnston, driving a white 1993 Dodge Intrepid, rear-ended a vehicle on the Illinois side of the Wabash River toll bridge on 141. The vehicle, a Volvo, which White County police reports show was being driven by Nina W. Buckman, 64, was traveling at about 55 mph, but when she was struck by Johnston’s vehicle, reportedly traveling at about 100 mph, Buckman’s left the roadway and traveled down the embankment on the north side of 141. Then at the bottom, it flipped end-over-end according to accident reports, coming to rest rightside up in the field. Buckman’s airbag deployed, and she was only slightly injured. Emergency crews had already been dispatched thanks to callers with cell phones.
A witness to the incident, Michael J. Schneider, told White County deputy George Spencer and Sheriff Doug Maier that Johnston’s vehicle passed him at possibly 100 mph and before striking Buckman’s Volvo, he had been swerving from the north guardrail to the south guardrail. Then when the accident happened, and traffic stopped, Schneider got out and approached Johnston’s car.
Johnston was sitting in the middle of the roadway. Schneider asked him if he were injured; in response, Johnston told Schneider his name and that he had been drinking and had been released earlier in the day from the Posey County Jail following a DUI arrest the previous night (Thursday).
Maier told Disclosure that at that point in time, sirens could be heard approaching from rescue vehicles, which must have spooked Johnston: He got back in his vehicle and, as Schneider watched, drove on toward the toll bridge. Schneider told officers Johnston didn’t appear ‘highly intoxicated’ but he was uncertain as to whether Johnston had been injured. An oncoming witness told Disclosure this morning that the Dodge’s front bumper was dragging the ground and smoke was coming from the car.
From there, White County reports indicate Johnston’s vehicle had struck the toll booth on the Indiana side as he passed it. Reports indicate he also sideswiped a vehicle and kept going, possibly striking two other vehicles before becoming involved in ANOTHER major accident about three to four miles into Indiana.
Disclosure has spoken to Posey County Deputy William Denning this afternoon, who has confirmed that there have been NO deaths attributed to Johnston.
“There were only actually two injuries on the Indiana side,” Denning said, “which is miraculous given everything that happened.”
Denning will be providing incident reports as he can, but not until tomorrow, after he speaks with Jodi Uebelhack, Posey’s prosecutor. Incidentally, Uebelhack’s brother happened to be in one of the vehicles struck in the multiple accident rampage, so Posey County’s got to bring in a special prosecutor from Vanderburgh to handle Johnston’s prosecution.
Maier was unaware of any 911 calls about a woman being raped or sexually assaulted in any way; he did note that Illinois State Police had responded to New Haven prior to the wreck of a call that Johnston had been harassing a woman and driving erratically in New Haven. Calls to Illinois State Police earlier this morning revealed that they didn’t work the accident on the Illinois side, but nothing was said about previous complaints.
Indiana State Police assisted Posey County, and Johnston was arrested and charged with DUI; Indiana State Police haven’t returned our calls yet. Any further Posey charges, along with his bond, will be learned tomorrow, but as of now he’s sitting in jail. Illinois (White County) will be charging Johnston with leaving the scene of an accident with injury.
There’s no indication of what this incident will do to Johnston’s sex offender status. Generally, sex offenders are supposed to stay out of trouble. His conviction came in so many years ago, however, that it’s unknown how it will be handled. As well, there’s some confusion about his sex offense (abducting a person under the age of 16 by luring into a vehicle). ISP’s sex offender website lists it as having occurred in Gallatin; yet there’s a report on it on judici being a White Co. offense. We’re unfortunately stuck if it’s a White Co. case, as Scott Webb won’t let us see the files on sex offenses there, so we may never know any details. If it’s GallCo, however, we will be able to bring the information to you in the print version, on stands May 12.
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