William K. Johnson, who struck and killed Larry Gaunt and his 14-year-old granddaughter Sierra as they were riding their bicycles in August of 2007, is on trial in Independence, Missouri, charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. His trial began on July 14th.
Larry and Sierra were training for the MS 150 Bike Ride on Raytown Road near Longview Lake in Grandview when they were struck from behind by a pickup driven by Johnson.
Prosecutors contend that Johnson was speeding and driving recklessly when he ran down the Gaunts on a “straight, level, clear, and wide” stretch of road. “This tragedy was completely avoidable if Johnson had been paying better attention,” prosecutors said
Johnson’s defense attorney told jurors that the deaths were “a tragic accident,” and that “the two bicyclists swerved in front of” Johnson, but witnesses who took the stand refuted that claim. Johnson is expected to take the stand in his own defense. Observers expect the case will go to the jury by the end of the week.
The deaths of the Gaunts galvanized the local cycling community, with over 600 riders participating in a memorial ride for the Gaunts a few days after their deaths.