Justice has been served, said the sister of Ricardo J. Richardson, who died in a car crash last year. He was 20 years old
Darren M. Johnson was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison on a first-degree murder conviction linked to the car crash in which Richardson died.
Shawnee County District Judge Steven Ebberts sentenced Johnson, 20, to life in prison without parole eligibility for 25 years on the murder conviction, and to an additional seven years, 10 months for the aggravated robbery in which the car involved was stolen.
"We can now finally close this chapter in our lives and keep his memory alive and try to move forward with our lives, even though some days are not easy," said Richardson's sister, Trista Jasso. "Although my brother is not with us in this life, he will always be with us in our hearts."
Jasso expressed thanks to everyone involved, including Topeka police, prosecutors, the judge, the jury and the criminal justice system.
"We would also like to thank the public for all of their thoughts and prayers, as losing a loved one is never easy and much less in the hands of another," she said.
Rodriguez, 20, died when the 2011 Kia Soul in which he was a passenger was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle about 5:20 a.m. June 22, 2020, on S.E. 21st Street near Adams, authorities said.
Topeka police and Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay gave this account of the circumstances involved:
Topeka police were called about 4:15 a.m. June 22 to the 300 block of S.E. Lawrence, where they were told that the Kia had been taken in a carjacking by two robbers, one of whom showed a handgun.
About 5:20 a.m. that day, a Topeka police officer briefly pursued the Kia after seeing it being driven at high speed, but lost sight of it and ended the chase.
Soon afterward, a different officer saw the Kia being driven at a high speed near S.E. 21st and Adams. The Kia's driver, Johnson, lost control, entered the opposing lanes of traffic and collided head-on with a pickup truck, which was going the opposite way. The Kia was not being chased by police at the time of the crash.
Rodriguez was pronounced dead at the scene. Police determined he had not been involved in the carjacking. Everyone else involved in the crash survived.
The juvenile male accused of taking part in the carjacking was charged with aggravated robbery. His name wasn't public, and information wasn't available about the disposition of the case against him.
A jury convicted Johnson in July of first-degree murder resulting from the commission of a felony, reckless but unintentional second-degree murder, aggravated robbery and fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.
Court records show Johnson's second-degree murder conviction was merged with his first-degree murder conviction at Wednesday's sentencing.
He was ordered to serve six months on the conviction for fleeing and eluding, and to serve that sentence at the same time as his sentence for first-degree murder.
Deputy District Attorney Will Manly and former Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Dunbar prosecuted the case.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Topekan receives life prison sentence linked to fatal traffic crash