Driver faces 15 years in crash that killed bailiff & injured officer

Cathy Adams died in the wreck and her husband, Jack, was seriously injured

By Allyson Henning - Reporter, Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - A St. Johns County woman will likely serve prison time after reaching a plea deal on felony DUI charges in the crash that left a Jacksonville court bailiff dead and a police officer seriously injured.

Kim Johnston, 47, faces 15 years in prison after pleading no contest to DUI manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury in the December 2018 wreck that killed Cathy Adams and injured her husband, Jack. As part of the agreement, Johnston’s driver’s license will also be revoked.

Johnston, who will receive credit for time served, is being held on $125,000 bond at the St. Johns County jail. She is due back in court Nov. 27 for a sentencing hearing, court records show.

"In this case a mother was killed and a father permanently injured because the defendant chose to drive while heavily intoxicated. Tragedy and death often accompany drunk driving," State Attorney RJ Larizza said of the case's outcome. "I hope the family will find some measure of peace now that the defendant is held accountable for her reckless and deadly crimes."

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

The charges stem from a Dec. 9, 2018, crash on Interstate 95 in St. Johns County. Johnston was behind the wheel of an Acura sedan that witnesses say was speeding before it collided with the Adams’ family’s Chevrolet SUV, court records show. The impact caused the SUV to roll over and hit a guardrail.

Cathy & Jack Adams

Cathy Adams, 43, was ejected from the vehicle and died of her injuries. Her husband suffered a broken back and was temporarily paralyzed. The couple’s teenage children had minor injuries.

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.

State lab tests of a blood draw obtained through a search warrant found that Johnston’s blood alcohol content was .126 approximately seven hours after the crash, according to court documents. The legal limit for drivers in Florida is .08.

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

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