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Accused drunken driver charged with murder in boat club crash that killed 2 children

MONROE COUNTY, Mich. — A Michigan judge on Tuesday ordered that the woman accused of crashing into a boat club over the weekend, killing two children and injuring several others, be held on a $1.5 million bond after hearing from the victims’ family members in court.

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Authorities arrested Marshella Marie Chidester, 66, on suspicion of second-degree murder and operating a vehicle while intoxicated after they said she crashed into the Swan Boat Club in Berlin Township on Saturday. At the time, families were gathered to celebrate a 3-year-old’s birthday party at the club, The Detroit News reported.

Two siblings, 8-year-old Lana Phillips and 4-year-old Zayn Phillips, died in the crash, according to the newspaper. About a dozen other people were injured, including the children’s mother, Mariah Dodds, and their 11-year-old brother, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Distraught family members addressed the court during a bond hearing on Tuesday, telling District Court Judge Christian Horkey that Chidester has a history of alcohol abuse and should have never gotten behind the wheel on the day of the crash.

“They walked into their 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,” Raquel Smouthers, Lana and Zayn’s aunt, said through sobs on Tuesday. “Not just my family, everyone else that was in that building. … Nobody should have to go to a birthday party thinking that they’re going to die.”

Monroe County Prosecutor Jeffrey Yorkey asked a judge to hold Chidester on a $1.5 million bond on Tuesday, calling her a “danger to the community” and noting that a preliminary breath test found that her blood alcohol level was “significantly over the legal limit” at the time of the crash.

“A $1.5 million bond in this case is a gift,” he said.

Chidester’s attorney, Bill Colovos, argued in favor of a $100,000 bond, saying that his client had only one glass of wine hours before the crash. He pointed to her lack of a criminal history and suggested that she might have had a seizure while driving.

“This is not a monster,” he said. “It’s horrible what happened, absolutely horrible. … But some things we don’t have control over.”

Yorkey said authorities found no evidence of a possible seizure.

“What’s more is … she indicated herself that she had some seizure issues and she was on some medication and she wasn’t supposed to be drinking, but admitted that she had been drinking that day,” he said.

Colovos told the News on Tuesday that attorneys were awaiting the results of a blood alcohol test. The preliminary breath test Chidester took after the crash is not admissible in court because such tests are often inaccurate, the newspaper reported.

Chidester faces two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury. If convicted of the charges, Chidester could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Authorities continue to investigate.

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