by: DAVID F. ASHTON - After speeding through a stop sign and smashing into the Toyota on S.E. Gladstone St., momentum carried this Cadillac Escalade SUV a quarter block north along S.E. 28th Place. The two in the Toyota [in background] perished in the crash; the allegedly DUII driver of the Cadillac fled, but was soon found and arrested. An adult son was taking his elderly mother on a brief Saturday afternoon shopping trip in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, on Saturday, March 9th.

The drive ended suddenly and tragically, on S.E Gladstone Street at 28th Place.

Witnesses said that 55-year-old Paul Lawrence Knepper, and his mother, 90-year-old Hazel Agnes Knepper, “didn’t have a chance”.

Eyewitnesses told THE BEE that a northbound silver 2000 Cadillac Escalade sports utility vehicle, speeding on S.E. 28th Place, blew through a stop sign – some say, going as fast as 60 mph – and plowed into the Kneppers’ eastbound white Toyota Corolla four-door on Gladstone Street. It happened just before 5 pm.

“I didn’t hear any squeal of tires before the house-shaking crash,” neighbor Bert White told THE BEE.

While the Kneppers were drawing their last breaths, the SUV’s driver didn’t come to their aid.

“When I came out to see what had happened,” White described for us, “Three guys were getting out of the SUV and taking off. One guy, and a dog, went, but came right back.”

Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed that the driver of the Cadillac Escalade SUV, and two of the three passengers, fled the scene. The fourth occupant, 28-year-old Benjamin Chase Arce, stayed behind.

The police radio crackled with calls to set up a containment perimeter, and soon Portland Police District Officers had closed down streets from S.E. Holgate Boulevard north to S.E. Powell.

The dragnet was successful. At about 5:15 pm, officers took the man they believe to be the driver of the SUV, 29-year-old Daniel Troy Johnson, into custody on S.E. 29th Avenue, a half-block south of S.E. Powell Boulevard. Johnson was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) on March 10 at 12:11 am.

“Johnson will be charged with two counts of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Felony Hit and Run, Assault in the Fourth Degree, and DUII,” Simpson said.

The suspect was moved the next day to Multnomah County Inverness Jail, where he appeared before a judge via teleconference on March 11th.

Subsequently, MCDC records showed that Johnson will face an upgraded charge of Manslaughter in the First Degree, a Class A Felony. As of this writing, Johnson is housed in Inverness Jail, with bail set at more than $500,000.

Anyone with information on the other two passengers, who at press time were still missing, is asked to contact Officer Pete Kurronen at 503/823-2208.

As for the Kneppers, who were well-known in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, and who previously had been profiled in THE BEE by correspondent Rita A. Leonard, they will be missed. See separate story by Rita Leonard.

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