HomeTop StoriesPawcatuck man rejects plea in Montville crash that killed mother and son

Pawcatuck man rejects plea in Montville crash that killed mother and son

April 15 – A Pawcatuck man has rejected an offer to spend 16 years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty to charges related to the deaths of a Norwich mother and son.

Derion Coker, 29, is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and two counts of second-degree manslaughter in connection with a Sept. 16, 2022, crash on Interstate 395 in Montville.

Police said Coker was driving north when he struck and killed Jamie Krajewski, 33, and her son, 17-year-old Tyshon Harper, who were standing on the shoulder of the highway in a disabled vehicle.

In Norwich Superior Court on April 9, Coker rejected the state’s offer that he would have had to plead guilty to two counts of second-degree manslaughter. The case is now on the trial list with an unspecified start date.

Coker’s attorney, Paul V. Carty of New Haven, said the state’s plea offer was “not reasonable” in light of what he said are “glaring errors” in the state police investigation. Carty claims Coker was not drunk at the time of the crash. He said Coker showed no signs of intoxication after the crash and was not given a field sobriety test or blood test immediately after the crash.

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The 11:24 p.m. crash occurred on the northbound shoulder of I-395, just north of Exit 9 in Montville. Police said Krajewski and Harper were standing outside two different vehicles, one of which was broken down, when Coker’s Volkswagen Passat drifted onto the shoulder, hitting the two cars and the mother and son. Two other people were injured.

Coker, who admitted to drinking alcohol at Mohegan Sun before the crash, initially claimed that “someone got out in front of his car” and that he “couldn’t react fast enough,” according to the arrest warrant affidavit. Police allege Coker’s vehicle veered onto the shoulder, struck the two cars and continued into the guardrails.

Police obtained surveillance footage of Coker’s time at Mohegan Sun prior to the crash, which shows him drinking five drinks — three alcoholic drinks and two beers — between 8:04 p.m. and 10:18 p.m., according to the warrant. Police also said Coker appeared to be driving erratically as he left the casino parking garage. Police said they found remains of two marijuana joints in Coker’s car.

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Carty said Coker, who is free on $200,000 bond, is a “genuine man and family man” who works and stays out of trouble.

Harper was the eldest of Krajewski’s five children and attended Norwich Free Academy. Members of Krajewski’s family could not be reached for comment.

g.smith@theday.com

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