Marshella Chidester to stand trial for fatal Swan Boat Club crash

Marshella Chidester will stand trial for the Swan Boat Club crash that killed two children in April.

Chidester, 66, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, and four counts of operating while intoxicated causing serious injury after the April 20 crash that killed two siblings and injured others. She was bound over on all charges on Thursday.

Her blood alcohol level was .18, more than double the legal limit in Michigan, according to blood test results read in court.

Marshella Chidester

Though evidence showed she was drunk, her attorney Bill Colovos argued that she shouldn't be charged with second-degree murder because she didn't intend to kill anyone.

"There was no intent by my client whatsoever," he said.

However, the judge refuted this claim and ordered Chidester to trial after hearing evidence from both Monroe County Sheriff's deputies and victims of the crash. She'll be arraigned on the charges in circuit court on June 12.

Security video showed Chidester slamming into the Berlin Township building while a children's birthday party was being held. The crash killed 8-year-old Alanah Phillips and 5-year-old Zayn Phillips and left more than a dozen other people hurt.

"It was just chaos everywhere," said Lya Sith, a witness of the crash. "You could hear was babies crying, everyone screaming, there's plenty of people injured."

Chidester told investigators she had no memory of the crash.

During her arraignment, prosecutors said that Chidester blew "significantly over the legal limit" on a preliminary breath test (PBT). Colovos argued that his client was not intoxicated. Instead, he claims she was suffering from a medical condition that led to the crash.


Swan Boat Club crash suspect Marshella Chidester's BAC was more than double legal limit

Marshella Chidester, the driver who crashed into the Swan Boat Club and killed two children in April, had a blood alcohol level more than double the legal limit in Michigan.

During the arraignment, he said that his client, who had a clean driving record prior to the crash, only had a glass of wine while eating lunch at a local bar four hours prior to the crash. According to Colovos, Chidester has been suffering from seizures since November, takes medication for the condition, and needed to stop driving for several months in the fall due to seizures.

Family of the victims pushed back against this, saying that she shouldn't have had any alcohol if she was taking medication. During the arraignment, Raquel Smouthers, Alanah and Zayn's aunt, asserted that Chidester shouldn't have been driving, regardless of alcohol use, due to her medical condition. 

Chidester is being sued by Alanah and Zayn's mother, Mariah Dodds. She is also suing Verna's Tavern, the bar where Chidester was allegedly drinking before the crash.

In court on Thursday, Dodds took the stand and recalled the last thing she remembers before the crash.

"I was walking back to the table my children were sitting at, as they were eating, and that was the last thing," Dodds said.


Photos of Swan Boat Club crash aftermath released; more victims join lawsuit

An attorney representing nine victims shared several photos showing the destruction inside the Swan Boat Club, left behind by Marshella Chidester – the woman who drove about 25 feet into the building and killed two kids.