April 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Clinton Twp. motorist awake, keeps saying 'I don't want to die, I'm sorry'

Mandi Emerick with her dad, Steven Utash. (Family photo)

Detroit --Nine days after he was pummeled by an angry mob, shocking Metro Detroit and prompting calls for calm and brotherhood, Steven Utash awoke from a coma — calling for help and repeating, “I don’t want to die.”

The 54-year-old tree-trimmer’s anguish was chronicled in an online post by his daughter, Mandi Emerick, the day after religious and community leaders held a vigil at Little Rock Baptist Church, calling for healing for Utash, other victims of violence and the community.

“He does keep saying, ‘I don’t want to die. I’m sorry’ and ‘Please don’t let me forget you.’ He also keeps flashing back to the assault screaming for help and ‘Please get them off me.’ He didn’t seem to know what happened to him or why he was in the hospital, but again it is way to(o) early to tell,” Emerick said. “He is also on many pain medications which are causing him to be delirious.”

Five people are accused in the attack.

Utash’s April 2 beating by an angry mob after he stopped to help a child he accidentally struck with his truck made national headlines and highlighted Detroit’s crime problem and the region’s racial divide.

“He is off the ventilator and is able to breathe on his own,” Emerick wrote Friday on a website set up to raise funds to help pay medical costs for her father, who has no health insurance.

“He is in and out of it with his memories,” Emerick wrote. “Sometimes he can look at me and remember who I am and other times he can’t. Today when I asked him how old he is he said ‘I’m two years old,’ but he did know his name.

Utash’s brother-in-law, Max Mohr, told The Detroit News that doctors at St. John Hospital decided Thursday to remove the ventilator.

“They put him on breathing treatments,” he said. “He’s coming in and out of consciousness. When he looked at Mandi yesterday, he started crying, then went back out. He knows who Mandi is, and he knows who (his son) Joe is, but he doesn’t recognize his youngest daughter (Felicia).

'Pretty delirious'

“He’s still pretty delirious,” Mohr said. “He’s been talking about people from 20 years ago. He was asking for my grandma; she’s been dead for six-seven years now.”

Mohr said the Thursday night prayer vigil was “nice,” and he hopes “something good will come out of it, but I don’t know. I’m glad they had it, don’t get me wrong. But it was just one grain of salt. If there’s really going to be a change in Detroit, it’s going to take a lot more (events) like that.”

A 16-year-old boy was among those charged last week with the beating, and a police source familiar with the investigation also told The News he admitted Utash’s race was at least a partial reason for attacking him, which is why the youth also was charged with ethnic intimidation.

“You have to wonder how a 16-year-old could have that much hate, to beat someone because of the color of his skin,” Mohr said. “People aren’t born with that kind of hate in their hearts; someone had to have told him to hate like that.”

The teen was to be arraigned in juvenile court today.

In her written update, Emerick expressed tentative optimism that her father may be getting better.

“These are baby steps,” she wrote. “He is able to wiggle (h)is toes on command and answer yes or no questions. It’s to(o) soon to tell if he’s going to have any memory loss or long-term damage. The frontal lobe is what was affected the most and that is where his memories and personality are and this is a long road ahead but the end of the road will be worth it.

“It is so hard to see him like this.”

In other developments Friday, a 19-year-old man was charged in connection with the beating near Morang and Balfour on the city’s east side.

Latrez Cummings is the latest suspect accused of taking part in the beating. Cummings, arrested Wednesday after a short foot chase, did not have an attorney present during his arraignment via video Friday in 36th District Court.

Magistrate Millicent Sherman entered a not guilty plea on his behalf after reading the charges against him: assault with intent to commit murder and assault with intent to do great bodily harm.

The judge set bond at $500,000, the same as three other men — Bruce Edward Wimbush Jr., a 17-year-old East English Preparatory Academy student; Wozney Saffold, 30, and James Deontae Davis, 24 — who were arraigned earlier this week on the same charges.

Preliminary exam set

All four defendants are scheduled for an April 21 preliminary examination to determine if they’ll stand trial.

David Harris, the boy who was injured after surveillance video shows he darted into Steve Utash’s path, suffered a minor leg injury.

The Utash family has raised nearly $159,000 in donations. The family has set up a trust fund for donations at P.O. Box 761 Warren MI 48090-0761.

ghunter@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2134