Teen arraigned following alleged drunken driving that caused a man’s death

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published January 23, 2024

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office has arraigned a 17-year-old on a second-degree murder charge in connection with an alleged drunken driving incident that caused a man’s death in Shelby Township Jan. 7.

It is alleged that after 2 a.m. Jan. 7, the 17-year-old was driving under the influence of alcohol at speeds near 90 mph when he struck a vehicle and killed 26-year-old Austin Southwell, of Shelby Township.

It was at approximately 2:13 a.m. Jan. 7 when police were dispatched to the two-vehicle traffic crash near the intersection of 21 Mile and Hayes roads. Upon arrival, officers located Southwell, who was deceased.

The other driver, the 17-year-old, showed signs of impairment and was taken into custody. After receiving medical treatment for his injuries sustained in the traffic crash, he was lodged at the Macomb County Juvenile Justice Center pending a review of evidence and charges by the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

On Jan. 16, the 17-year-old was arraigned in 41-A District Court and was given a bond of $250,000 cash or surety by Magistrate James Verploeg. If released on bond, the juvenile was ordered to wear an alcohol tether.

Dawn Fraylick, the communications director at the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, said the juvenile defendant was driving a Ram pickup truck and hit Southwell’s car. 

“Our pursuit of justice is unwavering,” Macomb County Prosecutor Peter J. Lucido said in a prepared statement. “In the face of profound loss, we stand committed to holding this individual accountable for his choices and ensuring that the legal process unfolds with diligence and fairness.”

A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. March 7.

Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide said the department’s thoughts go out to Southwell’s family.

“Our department will remain committed to the safety of the community by having zero tolerance for anyone who chooses to drive drunk in Shelby Township,” he said in a prepared statement.

“With all the ridesharing options available, such as Uber of Lyft, there is absolutely no reason anyone should drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Sgt. Mark Benedettini, of the Shelby Township Police Department, said. “We now have a family who is grieving the death of a loved one due to senseless decisions and actions of this 17-year-old juvenile.”