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Murder charges filed against woman who crashed into building hosting birthday party, killing 2 kids

UPDATE 4/23/24 11:00 a.m.

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan woman was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder and other crimes after prosecutors say she drunkenly smashed her SUV into a boat club that was hosting a birthday party, killing two young siblings and injuring several other people.

Marshella Chidester, 66, faces eight counts in Saturday’s tragic crash at the Swan Boat Club in Monroe County, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Detroit, court records show.


Chidester, who has been in jail since the crash, was due in court later Tuesday, prosecutor Jeff Yorkey said.

A message seeking comment was left for Chidester’s attorney. The Detroit News reported that Chidester is a former commodore at the boat club.

The crash killed 8-year-old Alanah Phillips and her 4-year-old brother, Zayn Phillips, the sheriff’s office said. Their mother and another sibling were among the injured.

Authorities haven’t said whom the birthday party was honoring.


The boat club located off Swan Creek near Lake Erie is a membership-based organization that hosts holiday parties and other events, and provides docking space for members who own boats, according to its website. The club also advertises on social media that members can rent the clubhouse or pavilion for personal events including birthday parties.

4/22/24 4:30 p.m.

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Investigators need more time to collect information before charges can be filed in the deaths of two young siblings who were killed by a suspected drunken driver at a child’s weekend birthday party, a Michigan prosecutor said Monday.

“We expect to make a charging decision” on Tuesday, Monroe County prosecutor Jeff Yorkey said in a brief statement.


“We appreciate the public’s patience and know that you understand how important it is to have all of the information in front of us before making such an important decision,” Yorkey said.

A 66-year-old woman drove into the Swan Creek Boat Club in Berlin Township, killing 8-year-old Alanah Phillips and her 5-year-old brother, Zayn Phillips, at a birthday party attended Saturday by children and adults, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Detroit, authorities said.

Their mother and another sibling were among nine people with injuries who were taken to hospitals, according to the Flat Rock school district and a crowdfunding page created to help the family.

Five people were listed in critical or serious condition Monday, the sheriff’s office said.


Authorities didn’t say whom the birthday party was honoring. A bar where the driver may have been drinking was temporarily closed but open again Sunday.

Counselors were available Monday at Flat Rock schools to help students and staff cope with what happened.

“Words cannot adequately express the depth of our sorrow, nor can they ease the pain of those who are grieving,” Superintendent Andrew Brodie said on Facebook.

4/20/24 9:00 p.m.

BERLIN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A young brother and sister died and 15 people were injured, several seriously, when vehicle driven by a suspected drunken driver crashed into a birthday party Saturday at a boat club, a Michigan sheriff said.

An 8-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother died in the crash when a 66-year-old woman crashed 25 feet into the building about 3 p.m. at the Swan Creek Boat Club in Berlin Township, about 30 miles south of Detroit, Monroe County Sheriff Troy Goodnough said.

Goodnough did not identify the woman driving the vehicle but said she was taken into custody suspected of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death.

She was cooperating with authorities, he said.

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