'Destroyed multiple lives': Family makes heartbreaking plea after drunk Marshella Chidester kills 2 children in birthday party crash

'Destroyed multiple lives': Family makes heartbreaking plea after drunk Marshella Chidester kills 2 children in birthday party crash
Alanah Phillips, 8, and Zayn Phillips, 5 (together C) both died in the wreck, while their mother, Mariah (R), and elder brother, Jayden (L), are fighting for their lives (GoFundMe/Facebook)

Warning: This article contains a recollection of crime and can be triggering to some, readers’ discretion advised.

NEWPORT, MICHIGAN: During the arraignment for Marshella Marie Chidester, who is accused of killing two children and injuring at least 10 others by crashing into a building during a birthday party, a family member expressed that the callous incident had "destroyed multiple lives."

Chidester, 66, of Monroe, faced eight charges, including two counts of second-degree murder, for allegedly drunkenly crashing her SUV into the Swan Boat Club in Berlin Township around 3 pm Saturday, April 20. The vehicle came to rest about 25 feet inside the building after smashing through on the north side.

Insights into circumstances of tragic crash

Surveillance footage captured from a nearby home depicted Chidester's SUV speeding toward the boat club, escalating the tragedy that ensued. Siblings Alanah Phillips, 8, and Zayn Phillips, 5, tragically lost their lives in the crash, while their older brother, mother, and seven other individuals sustained injuries requiring hospitalization.

Authorities revealed Chidester's intoxicated state at the time of the crash, allegedly stemming from her recent presence at a nearby tavern. A preliminary breath test indicated her blood-alcohol level was "significantly over the legal limit," as confirmed by a Monroe County prosecutor.

Chidester's defense countered with claims that she had only consumed one glass of wine and a bowl of chili several hours before the incident. Additionally, her attorney asserted a history of "epileptic-type seizures" as a contributing factor to the crash, despite her lack of prior legal infractions or driving incidents. “Sometimes you have a seizure and your leg seizes up,” he alleged.

Family members give heart-wrenching testimony in court

Family members affected by the tragedy expressed their anguish during the proceedings. The grandmother of the deceased children lamented the irreversible consequences of Chidester's actions.

“She chose to drink, and those are my grand-babies,” the grandmother claimed. “She made that choice to get in that car and she chose to drink and drive, and she took my grand-babies from us,” reported Click on Detroit.

Victims' aunt on tragic impact of crash on family and community

Similarly, the children's aunt articulated the profound loss experienced by the family, condemning Chidester's disregard for safety despite her medical condition. “I was there. I saw where my daughter, my mom, my sister, my nephew from the opposite side of the family, my sister’s three children -- we were supposed to be planning a birthday party for Zayn, not a funeral," the unidentified aunt said. 

“Knowing you have medical conditions, you should never get behind a wheel, whether you are drinking or not -- taking medications, they tell you not to drink. But she still chose to drink. She still chose to get into that vehicle. I will never look at the month of April the same ever again. My birthday was a few days prior. The babies were just at my house.. They walked into that 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. Not just my family -- everyone else that was in that building," she continued.

“My nephew and my sister are still fighting for their lives today. I had to be the one to tell my sister her babies were gone when they removed her ventilator yesterday. She said, ‘How am I supposed to live without my babies?’ Nobody should ever have to go to a birthday party thinking that they’re going to die. Medical history or not: Every medication tells you not to drink. She knew it. She shouldn’t have done it. I had to see my deceased niece and nephew. I had to see their very last moment before that car was removed."

Uncle devasted over loss of niece and nephew

“This woman deliberately, without even hitting the brake, destroyed my brother’s life. Those were his babies," the brother of the children’s father said. "His little girl used to go to his basketball games, and now that little girl’s not going to be able to go see him. Their father, because a woman, who claims to have ties to her community, wants to drive and hit the gas even further, when she got to that parking lot, and destroyed multiple lives."

"My brother is in the hospital right now, praying that his little boy comes through, and he’s still got to tell his son that he lost his sister and brother. How is that right or how is that even fair?" he asked. "How is it even justified because the woman says that she’s got some type of medical issue?”

Witness casts doubts over suspect's intention

Following this, a woman whose children were at the boat club during the crash also addressed the court virtually, stating, “I drove there. My three children were there, and whether you’re having a seizure or not, that was intentional. You couldn’t drive the way that those roads bend, and the way that you drive in there -- there is no way that that woman was not conscious in turning that vehicle.”

Boat club member highlights suspect's intoxication history

A member of the boat club then spoke via Zoom, remarking, “During my 10 years of being a member of the boat club, most of the time I’ve seen her, she’s been highly intoxicated. I’ve watched people try to walk her out the door dozens and dozens of times, and one of the things that aren’t brought up here is that she hit a vehicle down the road and a tree down the road."

"I believe that it wasn’t intentional, but I do believe it was a situation where she was trying to flee and run from what she had just done down the road, because she shouldn’t have been driving, and everybody knew that. (If) you’re a member of the boat club, you know this lady shouldn’t be driving, and I believe she was fleeing that scene," he said adding,

"So whether it’s the alcohol or the medication or neither, this lady should never be behind a wheel. We’ve watched her take baby steps to get out of the place because she can barely walk, let alone get behind a wheel. For such a frail lady to cause such devastation in her car, I think that she shouldn’t be freed on bond because of this.”

The arraignment's focus shifted to the contentious issue of bond, with prosecutors advocating for a $1.5 million bond, while the defense proposed a significantly lower figure of $100,000 with specific conditions. If released, Chidester is prohibited from consuming alcohol or any other substances, and she is forbidden from driving or engaging in any further criminal activity.

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