Irvine woman convicted of manslaughter in teacher death — (The Orange County Register0

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The Orange County Register

By LARRY WELBORN,  The Orange County Register

May 22, 2008

Janene Johns took prescription drugs before she lost control of her Lexus and ran over a popular teacher out for a bicycle ride.

SANTA ANA – An Irvine woman shook convulsively and wept today when a jury convicted her of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of prescription drugs for running over and killing a popular elementary school teacher out for an early evening bicycle ride.

Janene Kathleen Johns, who now faces a possible 10-year term in state prison, hugged her daughter Lauren in the courtroom for about two minutes before she was handcuffed and taken into custody pending a July 18 sentencing. Lauren Johns sobbed, “I love you mom,” as she was led back to her seat in the gallery.

On the other side of the courtroom, Mary Logan, the mother of victim Candace Tift, cried and hugged daughter Amy Collins when the verdicts were announced after a two-week trial. Later, Logan embraced Wade Tift, Candace’s widower, and clapped her hands a few times.

Johns, 54, was also convicted of felony driving under the influence.

Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman told a Superior Court jury in his opening statements last week that Johns knew she wasn’t supposed to be driving on Aug. 23, 2006 after ingesting an anti-depressant and a sleeping pill, but she got behind the wheel anyway.

Johns lost control of her 2006 silver Lexus ES330 on W. Pacific Coast Highway and struck Candace Tift, 31 – who was out for an early-evening bicycle ride with her cocker spaniel Dudly jogging by her side – from behind. Tift, the mother of a young son, died later that evening.

Defense attorney Gary Pohlson told the jury in his opening statement that Johns was suffering from acute stress disorder because of the death of her husband five weeks earlier.

Candace Tift was a third- and fourth-grade teacher at Eastbluff Elementary School, handling gifted and talented students. She was also the student council adviser.

Contact the writer: 714 932-1686 or lwelborn@ocregister.com