Heber family calls for justice after UTV driver accepts plea deal in hit-and-run

Posted at 9:55 PM, Jun 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-14 23:55:18-04

HEBER CITY – The community of Heber City rallied around a teen who was injured in a head-on UTV crash and left in a ditch in Wasatch County in April.

Cordell Johnson’s family walked out of the Fourth District Court in Heber City disappointed. The accused driver of the UTV, Zack Larsen, waived his preliminary hearing and took a plea deal.

The family worries there’s a good chance he won’t have to spend any time in jail.

Supporters turned up at the courthouse to show their support for Johnson. They wore ribbons and posted signs on behalf of the 16-year-old.

“We couldn't have gotten through this without it because it's just been crushing to try to go through this; so stressful,” said Jill Johnson, Cordell Johnson’s mother.

Prosecutors say Cordell Johnson was riding a dirt bike near his home in April when a UTV driven by Zack Larsen, and carrying two passengers, hit Johnson head-on at 55 miles per hour. Johnson was stranded in a ditch for about an hour until he was rescued by a stranger who called 911.

Police say Larsen took off. They tracked him down at his home 8 hours later. Although the 30-year-old was suspected of DUI, the problem was when police tested him for alcohol, too much time had passed since the accident.

Prosecutors charged him with leaving the scene and having an open container of alcohol in the UTV. Cordell suffered serious injuries to his arm and shoulder.

“He's completely changed my child's life forever,” Jill Johnson said of the suspect.

Johnson was holding out hope that prosecutors wouldn’t offer Larsen a plea deal, but the felony charge was dropped to a misdemeanor, and the second count was dismissed.

“It's really upsetting," she said. "It's not what we were hoping for."

Her son Cordell was also upset.

“It's kind of frustrating that he can get away with everything, no injuries, do whatever he likes," he said. "Nothing will affect him and then I have to suffer through the rest of my summers, spring break.”

Jill Johnson says the justice system failed her son and claims Larsen is getting off too easy.

“He has not learned his lesson," she said.

Larsen will be sentenced on July 26.