Resident who fatally struck bicyclist with her car sentenced

Published 8:36 am Tuesday, March 19, 2019

NILES —  The Berrien County courtroom was packed Monday morning, as family and friends of a bicyclist who was fatally struck by a drunk driver waited for justice.

Facing Judge Charles LaSata was 23-year-old Kyriea Jade DeMorrow, who was charged with operating while intoxicated, causing death. 

On Oct. 4, DeMorrow pleaded no contest to the crime.

Kyriea Jade DeMorrow

After listening to statements from the victim’s family members, LaSata sentenced DeMorrow to serve a minimum of 48 months to 15 years in a Michigan State Prison.

The crime occurred on Sept. 15, 2018, when DeMorrow struck bicyclist Todd Harrington, 32, as she was driving along Pokagon Highway in Berrien Township. Harrington was pronounced dead at the scene.

A witness and his young son got a vehicle description and plate registration number of the Ford SUV driven by DeMorrow. Deputies were able to use this information to find DeMorrow’s home address at 198 Knott Road in Niles Township.

Court records indicate that DeMorrow had started drinking at her job at AJ’s Bar in Berrien Springs. When police arrived at her home, she advised officers that she had consumed alcohol and then drove to her residence. However, she denied being involved in an accident and said that the damage to her vehicle’s windshield and front bumper had existed before that day. Court records indicated that she appeared visibly intoxicated while interacting with authorities.

In addition to failing the field sobriety test, she had difficulty handing her driver’s license to police and at one point tried to give them her credit card. It was also noted that she was not wearing any shoes. DeMorrow told police that she often drove without them.

DeMorrow’s blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit of .08. She was also found to have THC in her system.

Three of Harrington’s family members spoke out during the court proceeding Monday, requesting that LaSata impose the maximum sentence to send a message about the consequences of drinking and driving to others.

Harrington’s sister said she remembers her brother as a fiercely loyal man, who worked hard at his dairy job and had a dream of becoming a history and social studies teacher.

One example of his loyalty, she said, was his hair and beard which he had allowed a friend to dye purple and green so that they could practice for the “mermaid trend” at their hairdresser job.

“He cared so much more about helping his friend that he was not particularly concerned about the time he spent living with purple hair,” she said. “We’ve lost an amazing person.”

Harrington’s mother said her family had experienced continuous heartbreak since his death.

She said she would never get to see her son marry and have children of his own or achieve his career dreams after years of working hard. 

“I am infuriated by these losses,” she said.

Harrington’s father also addressed the courtroom Monday.

“Selfish choices,” he said, “we’ve all made them. This one was more catastrophic. It took our son. It is not right to drink and get behind the wheel. If you want to drink, stay put.”

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jerry Vigansky said DeMorrow made some horrible choices Sept. 15.

“She never even realized that she hit anybody, and continued on and she went home,” Vigansky said. “At her home, officers questioned her. She had no idea what was going on. She was so intoxicated and so under her influence that she didn’t know the dent on her car was caused by her. She blamed it on her boyfriend.”

Defense Attorney Kevin Banyon, who represented DeMorrow, said she was “hugely remorseful.”

“Unlike many other offenders, Miss DeMorrow’s main focus has been not on how this will impact her but how this crime will impact [his] loved ones,” Banyon said.

Banyon said DeMorrow was attending school at Western Michigan University and had no prior criminal record.

When it was her turn to speak, DeMorrow said she would have to live with her guilt for the rest of her life.

“I made a reckless decision that caused so much suffering to a family that didn’t deserve it,” DeMorrow said. “My family did not deserve it [and] friends of both of us. Every day, all I can think about is the holidays he will miss, the family meals he will miss. I will never forget this. If I could change places with him, I would in a heartbeat.”

LaSata said he agreed with the family’s request to send a message about the importance of not drinking and driving.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr., if you get behind the wheel of that car intoxicated, and you kill someone, you will go to prison,” LaSata said.

In addition to her prison sentence, DeMorrow was also ordered to pay a restitution of $8,847.02 to Harrington’s family for funeral costs. The total fines and costs she was ordered to pay are $9,105.02. DeMorrow has two days of credit served.