July 23, 2014

5th manslaughter charge filed in I-80 wreck to reflect death of unborn child

A fifth charge of manslaughter has been filed against the driver of a truck that crashed into a car on I-80, killing four members of a Maryland family, including the mother who was 30 weeks pregnant with the couple’s third child.

Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub this morning filed an amended complaint in the deadly wreck, adding a charge for Manslaughter of an Unborn Child against 36-year-old Josef Slezark of Rivergrove, IL. Previously, Schaub had filed four counts of manslaughter as well as four counts of motor vehicle homicide against Slezak.

The series of tragic events began around 4:30am Sunday when a disabled truck driven by 66-year-old Vladamir Zhukov of Wheeling, IL stalled in one of the west-bound lanes of I-80. A semi tractor-trailer driven by 27-year-old Keith A. Johnson of Big Lake, MN crashed into the stalled truck. Johnson died in the wreck. Zhukov was not injured.

The attorney’s office says that as emergency crews responded to that accident, the truck driven by Slezak traveling west on I-80 failed to heed warning signs and plowed into the back of a 2010 Ford Mustang, driven by 30-year-old Christopher Schmidt of Gaithersburg, MD. The impact forced Schmidt’s car into the rear of a 2007 Toyota Corolla driven by his 28-year-old wife, Diana. The crash propelled the Corolla forward, driving it underneath the trailer of a truck stopped in front of her.

The crash killed Christopher Schmidt, Diana Schmidt and their two children; 3-year-old Samuel Schmidt and 2-year-old Conner Schmidt. Diana Schmidt was approximately 30 weeks pregnant, according to the attorney’s office.

Schaub says Slezark is being held in the Cheyenne County jail on $1 million bond.