Thinking his two daughters were dead, a DeKalb County man and his two sons walked three miles to a diner where they asked for help. Now, he's accused of driving drunk for the third time in 10 years. And this time, he's also responsible for the death of his teenage daughter, police said.
Anthony Johnson, who was being held in the DeKalb jail, posted bail and will be released sometime Wednesday, said Sgt. Adrion Bell, spokesman for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office.
Someone had run the family's Chrysler Pacifica off the road, sending it some 20 feet off U.S. 78, a bleeding Anthony Johnson told workers in the The Metro Cafe Diner on Rockbridge Road late Sunday night.
An employee in the diner called 911. Seconds later, an emotional Johnson tried to explain to the 911 operator what happened, according to audio recording of the call obtained by the AJC.
"Two of my girls are in the backseat, and they're dead," Johnson told the operator. “They’re dead, but they’re 15 and 11."
Johnson, 35, said after the crash, he yelled out the names of his two daughters, who had been sitting in the far back seat.
"They didn't answer," Johnson said. "I got back there with my flashlight. I can't see nothing."
Johnson said he couldn't find his cell phone in the wreckage, so he and his two injured sons took off walking for help.
The Gwinnett 911 operator called DeKalb 911, which sent emergency responders to the site of the single-vehicle crash, not far from the entrance to Stone Mountain Park.
Fifteen-year-old Corliss Johnson, the oldest of four children, died in the crash. Her 11-year-old sister was taken in critical condition to a hospital.
Within hours of the accident, Anthony Johnson was arrested and charged with DUI, vehicular homicide, endangering the life of a child and failure to maintain lane, according to DeKalb County jail records.
At his court appearance Tuesday morning, a tearful Johnson listened as a DeKalb magistrate judge set bond at $12,500. Prosecutors told the court Johnson had two prior DUI arrests, in 2002 and 2004.
Leaving court after the hearing, Johnson told reporters, “I love my wife and kids. Pray for my child in the hospital."
Johnson’s younger daughter, Joy, suffered a skull fracture and possible brain injury in the wreck and remains hospitalized at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. His two sons, ages 8 and 9, were treated for minor injuries.
Monday night, about 100 people gathered to remember Corliss, known as Cece to some friends, at a vigil at the Lithonia apartment complex where she lived with her parents and siblings.
Corliss, who had just completed her freshman year at Stephenson High School, was remembered as a happy girl who loved to laugh, a former classmate, Ruqiyah Freeman, told the AJC.
"We rode the same bus," Freeman said. "We used to talk to each other about everything."
Freeman said Corliss came from a close-knit family and was protective of her younger siblings, even babysitting her sister and two brothers when her parents weren't home. Freeman, 16, said she had never before lost a friend, making Corliss's death even harder to accept.
"It definitely makes me think you cannot drink and drive," Freeman said. "You can't do it."
-- Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this article.
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