Police: Michigan Woman Killed 2 Children, Injured 14 in Drunk Driving Crash at Birthday Party

Marshella Marie Chidester
Monroe County Sheriff's Office

The Michigan woman who killed two young children by crashing her car into a birthday party has been identified and hit with drunk driving and homicide charges.

Siblings Alanah Phillips, 8, and Zayn Phillips, 5, were the two fatalities in the Saturday afternoon tragedy, which injured 14 others, at the Swan Boat Club in Berlin Township, Fox News reported.

Harrowing video footage from the incident shows a dark SUV being driven by 66-year-old Newport resident Marshella Marie Chidester speeding through the parking lot before slamming into the boat club, where the party was being held.

Nine people were reported as suffering “serious injuries,” including the Phillips’ mother and 11-year-old brother, who are both being treated for “critical” wounds.

Three teenagers, two girls and a boy, are all also in “serious” conditions and still undergoing treatment, authorities said.

Four older women between the ages of 57 and 70 were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries, and another wounded person later sought treatment on his/her own. 

“The scene was described by the first responders as extremely chaotic with high level of emotions of those directly involved and those who witnessed this horrific incident,” Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough said hours after the crash during a press conference, where he declined to share the name of the suspect but stated that she had been jailed.

Chidester’s identity and charges were published Tuesday in a press release from Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Jeffery A. Yorkey.

The alleged drunk driver was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of “Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death,” and four counts of “Operating While Intoxicated Causing Serious Injury.”

“The Second Degree Murder charges carry a maximum of life imprisonment,” Yorkey stated. “Counts 3 and 4 each carry a maximum 15 Years imprisonment and/or $2500.00 – $10,000 and the remaining counts carry maximum sentences of up to 5 Years and/or $1,000 – $5,000.”

Childester’s bond was set at $1,500,000, and she will require GPS tracking and an alcohol monitor if she can post bail.

The courtroom was somber and filled with tears from the victims’ family during Childester’s Tuesday arraignment. 

“They walked into that birthday party having a fun time. They were sitting at that table, eating, and this woman crashed her car through this building, destroying all of our lives,” the aunt of the two young siblings cried.

“I had to be the one to tell my sister her babies were gone,” she said through tears. “She said, ‘How am I supposed to live without my babies?'”

“My nephew and my sister are still fighting for their lives,” she added.

The siblings’ mother, identified as Mariah Dodds by the Detroit Free Press, is suing Chidester and the bar she had drank alcohol at earlier in the day, the outlet reported.

Police say that before the fatal crash, the accused drunk driver was a customer at Verna’s Tavern, which Dodds has named as a defendant in the lawsuit she filed while still in the hospital.

“Can you imagine anything worse than that as a human being, as a parent?” said Jon Marko, one of the grieving mother’s attorneys.

“The surviving members of this family are going to carry this with them,” he added. “This has torn the entire family apart in the most unimaginable, painful way.”

According to her other attorney, Michael Jones, Dodds woke up in the hospital with a broken bone in her right shoulder, six broken ribs, severe pelvic bruising, stitched-up lips, and an eye swollen shut.

When she could speak, the first thing she asked about was the condition of her children. This is when she found out the tragic news of Zayn and Alanah’s deaths and that her eldest, J.P., was in the ICU with two broken legs, broken ribs, and a fractured skull.

While Dodd’s lawsuit argues that Verna’s Tavern over-served a visibly intoxicated woman, both the family who owns the bar and Chidester’s lawyer, Bill Colovos, said that she only had one glass of wine at the establishment.

Colovos also claimed on Tuesday that his client suffered seizures in her legs, the Free Press reported.

Chidester remains in Monroe County Jail and is due in court on April 30.


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