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Melanie's Story

A first-hand story from the grandfather of 13-year-old victim Melanie Powell
Memories of Melanie: A photo slideshow


State ranked among the worst in nation
Quincy judge was among first to take a hard line


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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Killer drunken driver’s prison time grows; Abington man died in crash

GateHouse News Service

BROCKTON - Five days before being sent to jail for killing a man while driving drunk, 37-year-old Brian Johns of Abington spent time at a picnic drinking.

‘‘I wasn’t surprised,’’ said Ann Feeney, the mother of Robert McCormick, the man Johns killed. ‘‘I never thought he stopped drinking.’’

Johns, a truck driver, pleaded guilty in Brockton Superior Court to vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and third-offense drunken driving. In court Thursday, he admitted that he drank this past weekend.

Johns was sentenced to 3½ years in jail, a year more than the judge originally intended. He will also be on probation for five years after getting out.


Judge John P. Connor Jr., who originally planned to sentence Johns to 2½ years in jail , said he was increasing the sentence after hearing additional details about the case.

Assistant District Attorney Russell Eonas told the judge that Johns had been drinking at a softball game, then at a bar, and had been seen speeding in his Mustang shortly before McCormick was struck and killed on July 9, 2006.

Johns struck the 38-year-old Rockland father of two, who was riding his bike along the road shoulder, and then drove away, Eonas said. One of McCormick’s limbs was severed in the accident, Eonas said.

Johns was tracked down by police the next day and, after an interview, was arrested.

He admitted to police that he knew he hit someone but panicked and left the scene, Eonas said. His car’s front end and windshield were damaged.

Johns was initially charged with vehicular homicide, leaving an accident scene after causing serious injury and driving to endanger.

He was later indicted on charges of vehicular homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of personal injury and death and operating under the influence, third offense.

The drunken-driving charges followed an investigation by Abington police Detective Richard Gambino and State Trooper John Kiely.

Eonas told the judge that investigators learned that Johns bought two 20-packs of beer and brought them to a softball game, where an off-duty trooper saw him sitting in a lawn chair drinking. Johns also admitted to drinking beer at a Braintree bar later in the evening.

Connor said the additional details of the case induced him to increase the jail sentence.

‘‘I did not realize the callousness at the scene ... especially the callousness and disregard of Mr. McCormick at the scene,’’ Connor said.

Johns’ attorney, Michael Harrington, apologized to the victim’s family his client’s behalf.

‘‘My client is deeply sorry from the bottom of his heart,’’ Harrington said, turning to McCormick’s family in the courtroom.

After the sentencing, Feeney said she hoped that the apology was sincere but wasn’t sure that it was.

She said she also wondered whether Johns continued to drink and drive after her son was killed.

Johns, a truck driver, kept his driver’s license after his arrest and indictment. The state Registry of Motor Vehicles pulled the license on Tuesday, after The Enterprise inquired about Johns’ driving record.

During the sentencing Thursday, the judge asked Johns where he last drank on the night McCormick was killed.

But Johns apparently misunderstood the question. His answer: Saturday, at a picnic.

Maureen Boyle can be reached at

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Friday, September 21, 2007


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