Judge grants change of venue in
DUI-manslaughter case involving five children, one adult
Monday, August 5, 2013 12:20 PM
A Circuit Court judge has ordered a change of venue in the case of a Philadelphia man indicted earlier this year on six counts DUI-manslaughter in connection with the Dec. 29 deaths of his five young children and an adult family friend.
The trial of Duane John Sr., 34, of 10270 Road 604, is scheduled for Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. in Lafayette County.
In filing a motion with the court for a change of venue, John said he could not receive a fair trial in Neshoba County, citing "widespread publicity" by both word of mouth and the media.
The DUI manslaughter case was picked up by the media on the national level, John said in the motion.
John was indicted last May the deaths of his children: Daisyanna John, 9; Duane John, 8; Bobby John, 7; Quinton John, 4; and Kekaimeas John, 18 months; and family friend Diane Chickaway, 37, of 1017 Fox Trail Road.
The six died when the Dodge Durango they were traveling in left the roadway and submerged into a creek near the Neshoba-Newton County line. The accident occurred on Road 107 about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia, shortly after 12:30 a.m.
John, the driver of the vehicle, the children's mother, Deanna Jim, 28, of 10270 Road 604, and Dale Chickaway, 37, of 1017 Fox Trail Road, escaped serious injury in the incident.
John was charged two days later after being released from the county hospital where he had been treated for hypothermia.
Sheriff Tommy Waddell said it appeared that none of the children were in child restraints and that none of the adults were wearing seat belts.
All of the victims were members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and lived in the Pearl River community.
Divers from the Philadelphia Fire Department located the vehicle submerged in about 22 feet of water about 2:30 a.m., Fire Chief Pierce Clark said.
The city's new rescue truck was instrumental in the recovery efforts, he said.
Clark said the doors of the vehicle were closed and survivors apparently exited through a window.
In seeking a change of venue, John said the "publicity, coupled with the fact that the victims were his own children, has aroused a hostile public opinion toward and against the defendant, creating within Neshoba County a great and widespread popular demand for the defendant's conviction."
John said in the motion that it would be impossible to select a jury from the residents of Neshoba County that would not be uninfluenced.
Other units responding to the accident, in addition to Philadelphia Fire and Neshoba Sheriff's departments, were: Dixon Volunteer Fire Department, Choctaw and Newton police departments, Choctaw Fire Department's dive team and Sebastopol and Greenfield volunteer fire departments, among others.
Daisyanna John, a third grader at Pearl River Elementary School, loved riding her bike and singing.
Her brother, Duane Jr., also in the third grade, loved to play games on his Playstation and ride his bike.
Bobby, 7, and Quinton, 4, loved to play the drums and play together outside.
Bobby was a first grader and Quinton was in pre-kindergarten.
The youngest child, Kekambas, 19 months, loved to play with his toys.