Best Friends?

Two in fatal wreck had previous police run-in

Tuesday, August 31, 2004 3:02 AM EDT
By Jon Gillooly
Marietta Daily Journal Staff Writer EAST COBB – Court records show that the two men whose Saturday night out led to a horrific accident that left one of them decapitated had gotten in trouble for drinking and driving before. Police say 21-year-old John Kemper Hutcherson was driving drunk early Sunday morning when he veered off the road, severing the head
of his friend, 23-year-old Francis “Frankie” Daniel Brohm, on a telephone support wire on Canton Road in Marietta just off Interstate 75. After the accident, Hutcherson drove the 10 miles to his home on Fox Hound Chase in east Cobb’s affluent Fox Run subdivision, apparently unaware of what had happened to his friend, police say. “I think he honestly didn’t know that he had decapitated his buddy,” said Cobb County police spokesman Cpl. Brody Staud.

Hutcherson was arrested Sunday morning after a neighbor discovered Brohm’s headless body in the passenger seat of his pick-up truck parked in the driveway. He faces felony charges of first-degree vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and failing to stop at the scene of an accident that led to death or injury. He is being held in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center; a judge raised his bond from $10,000 to $100,000 Monday.

Friends since their time together at Pope High School, Hutcherson and Brohm got into trouble in 2001 also for mixing alcohol and driving, court records show. A Cobb County police officer stopped the pair at the intersection of Johnson Ferry and Lassiter roads in March 2001 because the officer noticed they weren’t wearing their seatbelts, according to records obtained from Cobb County State Court.

The officer then discovered that Hutcherson, then 17, and Brohm, then 19, had been drinking. The officer also found two 12 packs of Ice House beer in the car and an opened beer container, court records show.Both were taken to the Cobb County Adult Detention Center and given multiple citations, the reports state. Brohm was charged with possession of alcohol by a minor. His court records were sealed after he successfully completed his sentence. Hutcherson, who was driving the car, was charged with DUI. He pleaded guilty, was ordered take a 17-hour class on the dangers of drinking and driving, spent a day in jail, was placed on probation and ordered to perform community service. Hutcherson also was in jail on a misdemeanor charge of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in January, according to records of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.

On Saturday night, according to police, Hutcherson was behind the wheel again after the two had been watching NASCAR and drinking at friends’ houses before leaving Runaround Sue’s, located on Church Street Extension just off Cobb Parkway near the Canton Road Connector, at about midnight because Brohm started feeling sick.

Cobb police spokesman Cpl. Brody Staud said Hutcherson was driving home with Brohm when Hutcherson veered off the road and ran into a telephone support wire, severing Brohm’s head. Police believe Brohm was sticking his head out of the truck at the time of the accident because he was sick from drinking too much. Hutcherson then drove the rest of the way home with Brohm’s headless body in the passenger seat, apparently unaware what had happened to his friend.

Brohm’s body wasn’t discovered until the next morning, when a man taking a Sunday morning stroll with his 1-year-old daughter spotted the body and called police. The witness was unavailable for comment Monday. Staud said Hutcherson was charged with DUI after police interviewed witnesses and came to his home Sunday. He said when police entered Hutcherson’s bedroom, they found him on his bed, coated with what appeared to be blood.

Staud said they could still detect the odor of alcohol, but he said blood tests from the lab would be the final factor in determining what the charges are. Neighbors said Hutcherson was a “good kid” who “wasn’t any trouble.” Neighbor Bob Gladstone said Hutcherson cut the grass in various yards in the affluent subdivision just off Roswell Road in east Cobb, including his own. “You just can’t even envision this. I can’t even imagine being in his shoes,” he said. “There, but for the grace of God, could have been me when I was in college.” Neighbor Cindy Robertson, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1987, said she watched Hutcherson grow up.

“The thing is, they keep calling him a man, but to me, he’s still a boy,” she said. “He would always wave and smile or say ‘hey’ as he drove by in his truck.” She said it was strange that the truck played such a key role in the tragedy, as it was his trademark, alerting her to when he entered and left the neighborhood by its loud engine. In fact, the truck’s engine woke her up around midnight early Sunday, just as police believe he was returning to his home, Ms. Robertson said.

“It’s no less tragic when anyone dies, but to know it could have been preventable – it’s hard to comprehend. The bottom line is, it’s two lives, one is gone and one is ruined – he’ll never be the same.”