Newport man jailed following fatal wreck on Highway 101

Johnny Lee Widerman

Sunday crash kills 20-year-old male

NEWPORT — Johnny Lee Widerman, of Newport, made an initial appearance in Lincoln County Circuit Court on Monday, a day after the Oregon State Police says he caused a two-vehicle collision on Highway 101 in the Gleneden Beach area that killed a 20-year-old Woodburn man. The Sunday evening accident sent three others to hospitals, including a severely injured 12-year-old girl.

The 33-year-old Widerman was arraigned Monday on charges of second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault, two counts of fourth-degree assault, DUII — controlled substances, reckless driving, second-degree criminal mischief and failure to carry or present a driver’s license. 

On Tuesday morning, Widerman remained in custody of Lincoln County Jail in Newport, held on $400,000 bail. He’s next scheduled to appear in court at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16, for a probable cause preliminary hearing.

The state police reports it responded at about 8:10 p.m. to a head-on collision at milepost 122 on Highway 101. The case’s probable cause summary stated that upon arrival at the scene, responders found a black Chrysler van blocking the southbound lane, facing northeast, with heavy front-end damage concentrated on the passenger side. 

OSP says Ruben Esteban Vasquez was found dead in the passenger’s seat, and a juvenile female “was laid across the middle bench seat, unrestrained, face down and unconscious.” The van’s driver and another passenger were transported to Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital with a broken arm and broken wrist respectively.

The unconscious 12-year-old passenger, according to the probable cause affidavit, was transported in critical condition to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. The report further states the juvenile’s injuries included a cervical spine fracture, a brain bleed and a lacerated liver. On Monday, she was transferred to the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.

The second involved vehicle, a Chevrolet Scottsdale pickup truck driven by Widerman, was located more than 100 feet south of the involved van in the road’s northbound shoulder, facing north. When contacted by law enforcement, Widerman reportedly volunteered that he’d been driving on a suspended license and admitted to using methamphetamine at 4 p.m. the previous day and marijuana earlier that day. 

The report additionally notes multiple “marijuana dispensary containers” were found inside the Chevy pickup. Widerman consented to providing a blood sample and engaged in standardized field-sobriety tests, reportedly scoring poorly on the walk-and-turn and stand-on-one-leg tests, and he “exhibited body tremors and bruxism (teeth grinding).”

An initial breathalyzer test administered to Widerman hours after the crash reportedly indicated there was no alcohol in his bloodstream.

According to court documents, Widerman has had 26 previous arrests in Oregon and another in California. R Lynn Howard, Lincoln County chief deputy district attorney representing the state in the matter, filed court papers noting the prosecution intends to rely on several facts to enhance the case against Widerman. They include that Widerman’s criminal history “fails to capture the true extent of the defendant’s criminality,” his persistent involvement with law enforcement, a history of multiple victims and incidents and causing permanent injury.

Widerman’s criminal history in Oregon dates back to a 2006 arrest for first-degree animal cruelty and includes multiple driving and narcotics offenses. As a result of his previous arrest prior to Sunday, Widerman pleaded guilty to a charge of driving uninsured on Nov. 16, 2020 in Lincoln County Circuit Court.

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