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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    R.I. man charged with manslaughter in crash that killed Norwich mom and son

    State police arrested a Pawtucket, R.I., man on manslaughter and drunken driving charges on Friday in connection with the deaths of a mother and son from Norwich who were struck and killed last year while standing on the shoulder of Interstate 395 in Montville.

    Derion L. Coker, 29, of 285 Pawtucket Ave. faces two counts of second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, two counts of evading responsibility resulting in death or serious injury and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

    The arrest comes after a months-long investigation by state police into an 11:24 p.m. crash on Sept 16, 2022, in the shoulder of the northbound side of I-395, just north of Exit 9 in Montville.

    Jamie Krajewski, 33, and her 17-year-old son Tyshon Ozzie Harper, both of Norwich, were killed when police said they were struck by Coker’s Volkswagon Passat. Coker’s car had drifted over the white fog line that borders the highway where the mother and son were standing, police said.

    Harper was a student at Norwich Free Academy and the oldest of Krajewski’s five children.

    Police said Krajewski’s car was broken down at the time of the crash. She had stopped and was receiving help from people in another vehicle when Coker’s vehicle struck Krajewski, Harper and the sides of both vehicles. Two other people who were standing outside their vehicle were also injured.

    Police said there was no evidence Coker, traveling between 44 and 50 mph, had braked prior to the collision, and a reconstruction of the accident determined Coker “continued to accelerate following the initial impact.” After striking the two vehicles, police said the Passat hit the metal guardrails bordering the highway.

    Police said Coker told a Montville police officer at the scene that he’d had two beers prior to driving and that he saw two people on the side of the road and “then someone stepped out in front of his vehicle” and “he couldn’t react fast enough,” the warrant states.

    During an interview at the hospital where he was taken for an evaluation after the crash, Coker stated, “I saw the cars. I saw them, then I saw the people,” the warrant states. Police said Coker “continued to state that he knew he must have crossed over the white fog line. But he doesn’t remember how or why.”

    “Based on the investigation into the crash, I found that the cause of this crash was that the operator of the Volkswagon Passat failed to maintain his established clearly marked lane of travel and encroached approximately (1) one foot (7) seven inches, east of the fog line, within the shoulder,” Trooper Ryan Meakem wrote in his report.

    There is no mention in the arrest warrant affidavit of a blood test to determine Coker’s blood alcohol level.

    Detectives from the Eastern District Major Crime Squad, as part of the investigation, searched text messages on Coker’s phone and found a text at 10:40 p.m. on the night of the crash that read, “Im in ct just m left a lil comedy show im lit rn... im boutta have to focus super hard to get home,” the warrant reads.

    At 11:28 p.m., minutes after the crash, police said Coker sent a text reading, “I said I love her and I’m sorry these people got in the middle of the street I didn’t mean to do it.”

    Police also obtained surveillance footage from Coker’s time at Mohegan Sun on the night of the crash. Police said the videos show Coker drinking five drinks during his time there -- three hard alcohol drinks and two beers between 8:04 p.m. and 10:18 p.m. Police said he was also caught on video driving erratically as he was leaving the casino’s parking garage.

    Tracking Coker’s movement by camera, police said he entered his car at 11 p.m., left the garage at 11:15 p.m. and was “seen taking an exaggerated, jerky right turn down a row with parking spots on each side.”

    Police said as Coker’s Passat was leaving the garage, “it is seen slowly drifting over the white fog line on the right shoulder by approximately two feet, before a sudden correction back into the lane.”

    During a search of Coker’s car, police said they found remnants of two marijuana joints.

    Coker turned himself in to state police after learning of the warrant for his arrest. He posted the $200,000 bond and is scheduled to appear June 13 in Norwich Superior Court.

    g.smith@theday.com

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