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Driver to be tried for murder in 2 Detroit crash deaths

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit – A 37-year-old Southfield man charged with plowing into a car, killing two young people and injuring two others inside, was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on second-degree murder and other charges in the April incident.

Robert A. Chaney, who remains in a wheelchair with injuries from the crash, was drunk and had been smoking marijuana when his silver 2017 Chevrolet Camaro went airborne and crashed into a burgundy Chevrolet Malibu, authorities allege.

The crash, which occurred about 2:40 p.m. April 13 in the neighborhood of Whitcomb and Pickford on Detroit’s northwest side, killed Angel Caruthers and Zachariah Garrison, both 20. Two others in the backseat of the Malibu were hurt.

Chaney was speeding down the street, which has a speed limit of 25 mph, near a park when the car struck a curb and flew into the air, landing on the Malibu, according to authorities.

Judge William McConico of 36th District Court ordered Chaney to stand trial after hearing testimony from a woman who witnessed the crash and from police who investigated it.

Michelle Hall testified Wednesday she was sitting in her car in the parking lot of a neighborhood park when she heard the “revving” of a vehicle’s engine and looked up to see a car coming in her direction. She said she saw and heard the crash.

“I saw the car hit the Malibu and it pushed the Malibu on the back of the (parking) lot,” said Hall. “The silver car went up in the air and landed on the opposite side the car.”

He initially was charged with two counts of operating under the influence causing death, and two counts of operating under the influence causing serious bodily injury.

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Brian Surma charged Chaney with second-degree murder earlier this month.

Chaney may have been driving at speeds up to 92 mph shortly before the crash, Michigan State Police Sgt. Chad Lindstrom testified.

Detroit Police officer Richard Schwab, who also assisted in the crash investigation, said there were tire tracks on the grass in the area where Chaney was allegedly speeding and scrape marks on the curb where his vehicle is believed to have hit.

Schwab said his department ordered a blood test at the hospital where Chaney had been taken, and it indicated the Southfield man had been drinking.

Jeffrey French, a Michigan State Police forensics lab supervisor, testified that Chaney also had traces of marijuana in his system and that his blood alcohol level tested at .089. Michigan’s legal limit is .08.

Surma asked McConico to bound Chaney over on the charges, pointing to allegations that the defendant was driving drunk and had used marijuana six hours before the crash.

“It’s unfair to call that speeding,” Surma said.

“What this defendant did was operate his vehicle at 92 miles per hour on a residential street,” he said. “This is a typical textbook example which led to the deaths of two young people.”

Chaney’s defense attorney, Otis Culpepper, said there was not enough evidence to warrant having his client stand trial for second-degree murder.

“It’s clear the defendant lost control of the vehicle,” said Culpepper. “It’s clear he was going more than 25 miles-per-hour. There is nothing to sustain second-degree murder.”

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027