ST. JOSEPH — A man who sped through one county on I-94 before crashing his car on a rural road in another county, killing his female passenger, faces up to 30 years in prison after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.
Berrien Chief Assistant Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said Jajuan Gabriel, 24, of Detroit, pleaded guilty to first-degree fleeing and eluding police causing death and reckless driving causing death. Gabriel pleaded as a habitual offender and agreed to a sentence of 15-30 years, Pierangeli said. Judge Gary Bruce accepted the plea and will sentence Gabriel Aug. 17.
A second-degree murder charge, which carries a penalty of up to life in prison, was dismissed.
Carmisha Slayton, 22, also from Detroit, was flown from the crash scene to a Kalamazoo hospital, where she died as a result of complications from multiple injuries, according to an autopsy report.
It happened Feb. 15. Gabriel was arrested Feb. 19. A preliminary hearing began in Berrien County Trial Court in March and concluded in April after autopsy results came in, with Gabriel being bound over for trial.
According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, the pursuit of Gabriel’s vehicle began near Bridgman in Berrien County and ended on County Road 687 in Van Buren County, where the driver lost control and crashed the vehicle into a large utility pole.
Baroda-Lake Township Patrol Officer John Hopkins testified at the hearing that as he attempted to stop the car in Berrien County, his patrol vehicle reached its maximum speed of 128 mph and he still could not get close enough to the speeding driver to see his license plate.
Hopkins radioed for backup and Berrien County sheriff’s deputies joined the effort to stop the speeding car.
A Berrien County Sheriff’s Department reserve officer testified that at one point, he got close enough to the fleeing car to read the license plate number. Officer Thomas Dumminger said he called in the plate number to dispatch, then backed off.
Michigan State Police Sgt. Brandon Davis testified at Gabriel’s preliminary hearing as an expert accident investigator. He told the court that, based on the car’s airbag control module, the fleeing vehicle was traveling 94 mph five seconds before impact, and 53 mph at impact. He added that there was no evidence of brakes being applied.
Davis said after the car went out of control and left the road it was slowed only by thick, piled up snow, before hitting the utility pole, with most of the impact on the passenger’s side.