Duane John
Duane John
A Philadelphia man was sentenced to 90 years in prison last Wednesday after a Lafayette County jury found him guilty of six counts of DUI/manslaughter in the deaths of his five children and an adult family friend last year.

Duane John Sr., 34, of 10270 Road 604, was sentenced to 15 years on each count to run consecutively for a total 90 years.

Fifteen years were suspended leaving 75 to serve.

Witnesses for the prosecution testified that John had a blood alcohol content of .18 percent when he drove his Dodge Durango with speeds close to 90 miles a hour before leaving the roadway and going into a creek near the Neshoba-Newton County line on Road 107.

Judge Marcus Gordon ordered a change of venue in the case this summer.

John was indicted last May in the deaths of his children: Daisyanna John, 9; Duane John Jr., 8; Bobby John, 7; Quinton John, 4; and Kekambas John, 18 months; and family friend Diane Chickaway, 37, of 1017 Fox Trail Road.

The six died on Dec. 29 when the Dodge Durango in which they were traveling in left the roadway and was submerged in a creek on Road 107 about 20 miles southwest of Philadelphia shortly after 12:30 a.m.

John, the driver, 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.

Nine witnesses testified for the prosecution during the trial which started on Tuesday, Sept. 24. John was the sole witness for the defense.

The prosecution charged that John; the children's mother, Deanna Jim; and Dale and Diane Chickaway were at a relative's house in the Pearl River community when an argument involving alcohol occurred.

Witnesses for the prosecution testified that Duane John, the three other adults and the five children left the house in the Durango going toward Conehatta. After turning off Mississippi 21 onto Road 107 Duane John passed a vehicle at a speed of up to 90 miles an hour, lost control and went off the left side of the road into the creek, testimony showed.

Testimony also showed that John had a blood alcohol content of .18 percent.

Duane John testified on his own behalf, telling the court that he hit a bump in the road and that his braking and steering failed.

Prosecution witnesses testified that the brakes and steering worked properly over the 20 miles from the Pearl River residence until John lost control on Road 107.

Investigators also found that the brakes and steering worked after the accident, testimony showed.

District Attorney Mark Duncan said the trial became emotional at times.

"I've not prosecuted a DUI/manslaughter case that had that many deaths," he said.

Neshoba County 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, when the accident occurred.

All of the victims were members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and lived in the Pearl River community.

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.