85ºF

Driver gets 15 years in DUI crash that killed JSO bailiff, injured officer

Officer Jack Adams gives emotional victim impact statement about crash that killed his wife, JSO bailiff Cathy Adams

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After an emotional morning of testimony Friday, a St. Johns County woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a DUI crash nearly one year ago that killed a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office bailiff, severely injured her husband, also a JSO officer, and changed the lives of their two children.

Authorities said Kim Johnston’s was driving drunk when she slammed into an SUV on I-95 on Dec. 9, 2018. The violent crash killed Cathy Adams, 43, and severely injured her husband, JSO officer Jack Adams. The couple’s teenage children had minor injuries.

Emotional testimony

Jack Adams, who was paralyzed from the neck down immediately after the crash, choked up several times Friday as he read a victim impact statement at Johnston’s sentencing hearing (Watch the video below).

“There are so many events, firsts and lasts, that won’t be the same now that Cathy is gone,” he said, pointing out that his wife will miss their children’s graduation, prom, future marriages and children’s births.

Adams said he nearly died in the crash himself and awoke to the heartbreaking news that his wife had not survived.

“While I believe you should spend a significant time in jail, Ms. Johnston, I wish you no ill will. I have drawn a great deal of strength and peace from my Christian faith,” Adams said through tears. “There is freedom in forgiveness.”

Cathy Adam’s sister, Sharon Fernandez, explained the children have been traumatized from the crash.

“Jake and Holly witnessed their mother lying lifeless in the road and their father was trapped in the vehicle,” Fernandez said.

Apology and tears

Johnston pleaded no contest in October to the charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI causing bodily injury. Deputies said her blood alcohol level measured seven hours after the crash was 0.126. The legal limit for driving drunk is 0.8.

Johnston took the stand Friday, wearing shackles. She wept as she talked about the pain she’s caused the Adams family.

“I am here to express my heartfelt apology for the fatal car accident that impacted innocent lives,” Johnston said. (Watch video below)

Johnston, who spent most of her life helping people as a chiropractor, said she has prayed for everyone effected and thanked Jack Adams for offering her forgiveness.

“This has forever changed our lives. It will never be the same, and I have every day in jail pictured and thought about the things that you don’t have anymore because Cathy is not here,” Johnston said. "It breaks my heart, and it’s been broken every day.”

Maximum sentence

Before he sentenced Johnston to the maximum penalty, the judge said her selfishness behind the wheel left behind destruction. He gave her 15 years on the DUI manslaughter charge and five years on the DUI bodily injury charge. The sentences will run concurrently.

As part of the agreement, Johnston’s driver’s license will also be revoked for life. The judge encouraged Johnston to spend her time in prison telling other people to not drive drunk.

A plea of no contest does not mean a defendant admits guilt, but rather that a plea agreement is in their best interest.

Deadly crash

Court records show Johnston was behind the wheel of an Acura sedan that witnesses say was speeding before it collided with the Adams’ family’s Chevrolet SUV, causing the SUV to roll over and hit a guardrail.

Cathy Adams was ejected from the vehicle and died of her injuries. Jack Adams suffered a broken back and was temporarily paralyzed.

photo

The family had been returning home from watching Mandarin High School’s state football championship win in Orlando.

Months later, Jack Adams spoke with News4Jax about his recovery and the challenges he faces. He said his spinal cord was pinched and his shoulders and arm movements were his biggest limitations.

RELATED: Law enforcement family picking up the pieces after deadly crash | Extended interview with Officer Jack Adams and the couple’s children

Johnston, whose eyes were watery and bloodshot, smelled like alcohol but refused to submit to a breath test at the scene, according to her arrest report. A deputy noted in the report that she performed poorly on two field sobriety tests and was unable to do a third test because of an existing leg injury.

After the sentencing, Jack Adams told News4Jax that he truly forgives the woman who killed the love of his life.

“I believe that in order for me to fully heal I can’t linger," he said. “The only way that I would be able to fully heal is if I forgave her for what she did to our family.”

He added that he hopes others can learn something from his family’s pain.

“I want to say, especially during the holiday time, New Years: Enjoy yourself, but if you get behind the wheel, please, please, please don’t drink because DUI is not a victimless crime."


About the Authors: