Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
DRIVER SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS FOR KILLING YOUNG MOTHER ON BIKE AFTER CRASHING INTO HER WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS
SANTA ANA – A driver under the influence of prescription drugs was sentenced today to six years in state prison for killing a young school teacher on a bicycle by crashing into the victim while driving. Janene Kathleen Johns, 54, Irvine, was found guilty May 21, 2008, by a jury of felonies for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and driving under the influence causing bodily injury with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.
At approximately 7:40 p.m. on August 23, 2006, Johns was driving westbound on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Beach in her silver Lexus sedan. The defendant had taken several prescription drugs throughout the day, including alprazolam (Xanax), zolpidem (Ambien) and methorphan (Mucinex), all of which made her drowsy and unable to focus on the road. While under the influence of drugs, Johns lost control of her car and drove up onto the sidewalk. The defendant knocked down a parking meter and crashed into 31-year-old Candace Tift, a new mother who was riding her bicycle. The victim was thrown from her bike and rendered unconscious. Johns failed to regain control of her car and collided with a fire hydrant before driving back onto the road and crashing into a parked car.
Tift, an elementary school teacher, had left her young son and husband at home to go on a bicycle ride. She was transported to Western Medical Center where she died from severe head trauma.
During a subsequent interview with police, Johns said that she knew she had been driving erratically and had considered pulling over prior to killing the victim. Johns’ doctor testified during trial that he had spoken to her about the dangers of driving while under the influence of her prescription drugs and that each prescription bottle label contained a similar warning.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman prosecuted this case.