MOUNT VERNON — A 20-year-old Martinsburg man has been charged in the deaths of two young men who were killed in a one-vehicle accident early Saturday morning in Miller Township.
Cory M. Morrison is being held in the Knox County Jail after he turned himself in Monday evening. According to Assistant Knox County Prosecutor Jennifer Springer, Morrison was charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of OVI.
Springer said that at Morrison’s bond hearing this morning, Judge Otho Eyster set bond at $100,000 with a 10 percent cash provision.
She said each of the aggravated vehicular homicide charges is a second-degree felony which carries a two- to eight-year prison term. The OVI charge is a first-degree misdemeanor.
According to Lt. Chad McGinty, commander of the Mount Gilead post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Morrison could face more charges in connection with Saturday’s accident, which left 20-year-old Thomas A. Johnson of Utica and 20-year-old Ryan C. Lambert of St. Louisville dead at the scene after being ejected from Morrison’s 2003 Ford Explorer.
Homer EMS and fire personnel were dispatched to the scene at 5:38 a.m., which McGinty said was over an hour after the crash, which occurred around 4:25 a.m.
Morrison called the Knox County Sheriff’s Office on its non-emergency line at 5:35 a.m. to report the crash, but he could not tell dispatchers his exact location on Weaver Road.
“We’re on Weaver Road, we need a squad,” Morrison can be heard telling a dispatcher on the recording of his initial call to the KCSO.
Morrison then told the dispatcher his car went off the road on Weaver Road, but he did not know the address of the wreck. The dispatcher instructed Morrison to hang up his cell phone, and call back using 9-1-1 so she can pinpoint his location using the cell phone signal.
Morrison then called the KCSO back one and a 1/2 minutes later, using the same seven digit non-emergency number. The dispatcher asked Morrison if there was anyone else in the car with him.
“There’s two people that need medical attention now, if they’re not already dead,” Morrison replied.
He told the dispatcher the two people are outside the vehicle, and they are not breathing.
While Morrison relayed this information to one dispatcher, another simultaneously dispatched Homer EMS and fire personnel.
MedFlight was called by EMS crews. Morrison was flown to Ohio State University Medical Center, where he was treated before being released Monday.
Knox County Coroner Jennifer Ogle also responded to the scene and declared Johnson and Lambert dead at the scene.
McGinty said investigators are establishing a timeline of Morrison’s actions after he left the scene of the accident.
“He walked away from the scene, walked away and didn’t make contact,” McGinty said regarding the block of time following the crash before Morrison contacted emergency help.
According to McGinty, Morrison told officers he had consumed two or three beers. Blood alcohol results were still pending this morning, according to the OSHP.
McGinty said his officers have completed most of their fact gathering and the investigation is now in the hands of Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher.
Johnson and Lambert are the sixth and seventh traffic fatalities in Knox County in the last four months, according to McGinty. Four of those seven deaths have involved alcohol.
McGinty said these figures are troubling because they contradict the trend in recent years toward a decline in drunk driving deaths in the county.
“We were making significant accomplishments toward reducing alcohol involvement in traffic crashes,” McGinty said this morning. “In fact, we’ve had more alcohol-related fatalities in Knox County this year, in three months, than we had in all of last year combined in both Morrow and Knox counties.”
The commander said his troopers dread having to notify families, as they did twice Saturday, that a loved one has been killed in a traffic crash.
“That’s brutal,” he said.
McGinty said he hopes drivers pause when they hear about Saturday’s crash.
“It’s a tragic lesson,” he said. “I would hope that everybody in the county that sees this on television or picks up the paper would take a minute and think — that could be me or my friends.”