WALLA WALLA — A man suspected of leading police on a high-speed vehicle chase last winter resulting in an injury crash pleaded innocent Monday afternoon in Superior Court to five related crimes.
Vernon Ray Johnson Jr., 32, is set for trial Nov. 27 on the charges of vehicular assault, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and possessing methamphetamine — all felonies. He also is charged with use of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor.
Johnson suffered serious injuries in the crash, and walked and spoke haltingly at his court appearance Monday.
Officials said he was driving a stolen Honda Accord when he led police on the Feb. 19 chase that began on South Wilbur Avenue and ended when the Honda plowed into a pickup at Bryant Avenue and Howard Street. Meth reportedly was found in the Honda.
The pickup’s driver, Jeffrey H. Callow, 62, was hospitalized for treatment of arm and rib fractures, but Johnson was the most seriously hurt.
He suffered severe head trauma and had been at an undisclosed rehabilitation facility until he walked away around Aug. 17 and disappeared, officials said.
He was arrested Aug. 22 in Walla Walla on probation violations from previous convictions and charged Sept. 5 with the crimes related to the February chase.
He was held at the Washington State Penitentiary until he was transported to the County Jail on Sept. 21. Bail has been set at $100,000.
Meanwhile, Myranda R. York, 23, who was a passenger in the stolen Honda, is awaiting a court hearing to determine if a special drug-offender sentencing alternative she received related to the chase and crash will be revoked.
In August, she allegedly aborted a six-month, inpatient treatment program she was ordered to undergo. She was apprehended in Walla Walla on Aug. 26 and now faces the possibility of a prison sentence of a year-and-a-day to 18 months.