Driver colliding with Willcox teen in fatal accident is arrested

 March 29th 2012
An arrest was made Monday in connection with a fatal accident in the Benson area last month.

Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers arrested Michael Messer, 24, of Tucson March 26 “following an intensive investigation” on a warrant issued by Cochise County, said Officer Quentin Mehr with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Messer was booked into Pima County Jail on one count of manslaughter; two counts of aggravated assault; two counts of criminal damage (over $10,000); two counts of felony endangerment; and one count of attempted theft of a vehicle, said Mehr, adding that there were eight additional misdemeanor charges related to DUI offenses.

He is now awaiting extradition back to Cochise County.

Messer had been administratively discharged from the United States Air Force prior to his arrest, Mehr said Tuesday morning.

Eighteen-year-old Ivy M. Johnson, of Willcox and Mesa, perished in the accident while en route to her brother’s funeral in Willcox.

Johnson died in the three-vehicle collision at about 12:33 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 on eastbound Interstate 10, milepost 301.7.

The Dodge four-door passenger vehicle, driven by Messer, was traveling eastbound on I-10 when it rear-ended two other vehicles,  Mehr said.

One was a Chevy passenger vehicle driven by Johnson, and the other a Ford passenger driven by 55-year-old William Traywick of Benson, he said.

Johnson was transported to University Medical Center in Tucson, where she passed away Feb. 25, said hospital spokeswoman Darci Slaten.

Messer, Traywick, and Johnson’s passenger -- 20-year-old Anthony Tyler -- were uninjured, Mehr said.
Mehr told the Range News Feb. 28 that Messer, who is an Airman at Davis-Monthan Airforce Base in Tucson, was “detained under suspicion of impairment as part of the investigation, then released to his First Sargeant.”

“Charges will be forthcoming,” he said at the time.

Johnson is the sister Joshua Michael Morton of Willcox, whose memorial service was held Feb. 25 at First Southern Baptist Church of Willcox.

Morton had passed away on Wednesday, Feb. 15 in Tucson at the age of 17, from a “firearm-related injury,” said Dr. Gregory Hess, Chief Medical Examiner with the Pima County Coroner’s Office.

Services for Johnson were held in Mesa, according to a family friend.

A memorial account is open at Compass Bank, under Johnson’s name, to help with funeral expenses. (source)