Published January 13, 2015
A man accused of killing a woman and four children in a wrong-way crash on an interstate while he was drunk is distraught over the deaths, said an attorney speaking for the man's family.
Michael Gagnon, 24, kept his head bowed and said little in court Wednesday during his first appearance since the crash on Sunday that killed five members of a family returning home from a holiday trip.
Toledo Municipal Court Judge Michael Goulding set bond at $1.25 million for five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide.
Gagnon, who still has a cut across his chin, spoke with attorney Rick Sanders on Tuesday while in jail.
"He couldn't believe this had happened," Sanders said. "He's distraught for the situation he's in. He's distraught that people are dead."
Police said tests showed Gagnon, of Adrian, Mich., had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit when he drove his pickup truck in the wrong direction on Interstate 280.
Gagnon drove about four miles before his pickup truck slammed into the minivan filled with six children and a husband and wife who had spent Christmas with their family in Michigan.
The minivan was rounding a curve when the pickup truck came directly at the family. The crash ripped open one side of the van, hurtling some of the victims into the road and scattering toys, stuffed animals and bits of gift wrap.
Killed were Bethany Griffin, 36; Vadi Griffin, 2 months; Lacie Burkman, 7; and Haley Burkman, 10, all from Parkville, Md.
Jordan Griffin, 10; who lived with her mother in Redford Township, Mich., also died. Her father, Danny Griffin Jr., 36, who lives in Parkville, and two other children were injured.
About a dozen members of Gagnon's family filled the first two rows of the courtroom during Wednesday's brief hearing. His mother and father, from Muskegon, Mich., sat in the front.
Their attorney said they wanted to say that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the crash and their family.
"They don't know what happened," Sanders said of Gagnon's relatives. "They're understandably upset. They're good people."
They left the courtroom in tears and did not want to talk.
Gagnon said during the hearing that he could not afford an attorney because he was a self-employed construction worker.
The judge said a public defender would be appointed for Gagnon.
Gagnon had his driver's license suspended multiple times for not providing proof of insurance or registration.
He also had two speeding tickets since 2002 but had no points on his driving record before Sunday's crash, according to the Michigan secretary of state's office.