Driver convicted of six felonies
ESCANABA – A truck driver who caused a fatal vehicle accident in Gladstone last year, was convicted Friday of six felonies in connection with the deaths of an Escanaba couple. The guilty verdicts were announced in Delta County Circuit Court.
Harley Davidson Durocher, 25, of Little Lake, was found guilty on six criminal charges which accused him of causing the deaths of Tom and Barbara Swift. He could now face time in prison.
Durocher was driving a logging truck north on U.S. 2 and 41 and M-35 on March 20, 2013, when he did not stop at a red light at South Hill Road and struck a vehicle occupied by Tom and Barbara Swift, both 73.
Durocher will be sentenced in eight weeks on two counts of reckless driving causing death; two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license causing death; and two counts of operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a controlled substance (marijuana) causing death.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The jurors reached their unanimous verdicts on the felony counts around 11:30 a.m. Friday after deliberating for a total of five and a half hours Thursday evening and Friday morning. Jurors also had the option for verdicts on lesser offenses.
When the jury foreman read the six guilty verdicts, Durocher showed no visible reaction to the felony convictions. The Swift’s son and daughter leaned towards one another with their heads bowed. There were tears in the audience and in the jury box.
After court was adjourned, Durocher was hugged by family members and kissed by his girlfriend.
During the four-day trial which began Monday, the jury heard testimony from 20 witnesses including motorists who were at the scene on the night of the accident. Closing arguments were presented by the prosecution and the defense Friday afternoon.
Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks told the jury Friday the evidence met the conviction criteria in showing that Durocher, as the driver of the truck, was responsible for the deaths of the Swifts on all six counts.
Durocher was driving the semi in disregard for the safety of others, he was driving on a suspended license, and tests proved he had THC (the chemical compound in marijuana) in his blood at the time of the accident, said Parks.
Defense Attorney Jim Howarth told jurors in his closing statement that his client as well as others made mistakes but Durocher did not cause the couple’s deaths.
A third motorist, Joyce Scheriff, 72, of Gladstone, was also injured in the crash. She was treated and released from the hospital.
Durocher’s sentencing date is June 20 in circuit court.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com