Man recalls being mowed down by driver facing DUI charge

Marko Kustudia remembers seeing two kinds of light Oct. 7 while he was taking his routine morning walk.

First it was natural, as the rising sun brought daylight to the Las Vegas Valley. Then it was harsh and artificial headlights, but not where they were supposed to be.

The next thing he remembers is “miserable pain.” The headlights were bouncing onto the sidewalk where he was strolling along Maryland Parkway, between Richmar and Gary avenues, near Gehring Elementary School.

He had been struck.

A Honda Civic jumped the curb and hit Kustudia, 75, and Richard Glen Bryan, 78, shortly before 7 a.m. that day. Bryan died there.

Neither man knew the other; both just happened to be out for a walk.

Kustudia and his wife spoke with the Review-Journal this week as he lay immobilized in a hospital bed at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Henderson, with “metal plates everywhere” and with the worry of medical bills that will need paying.

His neck, spine and an ankle were broken.

“I was pretty active all my life,” Kustudia said. ” (Now) I have no strength.”

Las Vegas police blame the crash 31-year-old Nicole Christine Johnson, who they said had been drinking. She is being held on $2 million bail on two counts each of DUI at the Clark County Detention Center, jail records show.

She also had been in another crash two days before and about a mile away. She wasn’t ticketed in that collision, and no one was hurt, although witnesses said she appeared to under the influence that day as well.

Day started out normally

The morning of the crash was like any other, Kustudia said. He left home on foot about 6 a.m. and went out for exercise, fresh air and a cup of Starbucks coffee. He wore jogging pants and a polo style shirt, and walked with a cane — a bar wrapped with tape — but that was in case a loose dog got after him.

Kustudia walked facing traffic because he didn’t like the idea of a car coming from behind, his wife Idonna Kustudia said.

Marko Kustudia said he had just passed Bryan, who was walking slower, and was walking under trees when he “saw headlights coming at me.”

“This car looked like it was just aiming for me,” Kustudia said.

He didn’t make it out of the way.

“I don’t know how I’m alive today.”

Idonna Kustudia described her husband as being “very active and strong” prior to the crash.

Not long ago he cut down and sawed up a dead tree in their yard before putting it in the garbage, she said. “He wouldn’t slow down.”

Bench warrants don’t always mean an arrest

The day of the fatal crash, Johnson had bench warrants — including one for driving without a Nevada driver’s license — that could have landed her in jail.

It was the same warrants police knew about when she caused the other crash two days before. Witnesses were appalled she wasn’t arrested then.

But Metro sees it another way.

The warrants were for traffic low-level misdemeanors, Metro spokesman officer Michael Rodriguez said Thursday. In those cases, unlike with felony warrants, officers can use discretion on whether to arrest someone or let someone go free.

Metro detained Johnson in the back of a squad car for about 90 minutes where she rear-ended a vehicle near Maryland and Pebble Road. Witnesses told the Review-Journal that in that crash she reeked of alcohol and that she had been swerving, running into the median and jumping the curb.

But police said they let her go after she passed three field sobriety tests. She wasn’t cited and a police report was not taken since there were no injuries, police said.

And Johnson, who also goes by Nicole Tanguay, drove away Oct 5.

Two days later, one man was dead and another critically hurt.

Rodriguez called the second crash “tragic.”

“There’s no real way around that,” he said.

Even if Johnson had been arrested, Rodriguez said, she would have appeared in court and likely would have been out by the time the fatal crash happened.

The family wants a face-to-face meeting with Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, and sent him a letter saying so.

Rodriguez said the sheriff has received the letter, and that the family’s request will be considered.

Earlier this month, Lombardo told the Review-Journal that next year his officers will start responding to all crashes, even if no one is hurt. The Metropolitan Police Department stopped doing that last year, and only goes now when someone is hurt.

That will mean more paperwork gets filed, and that officers responding to crashes could have access to more of a driver’s history, Lombardo said.

‘Something that shouldn’t have happened’

A week before the crash, Marko Kustudia had been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes.

Looking at three more months of therapy in the hospital, he’s worried about complications from the cancer and his injuries.

He went through one chemotherapy session, but other treatments are now on hold because of broken bones.

The crash was “something that shouldn’t have happened,” Marko Kustudia said. “They’re not treating those impaired the way they’re supposed to be treated.”

“It’s just sickening. Absolutely sickening. I hate feeling this way,” Idonna Kustudia said. “But anybody who can be so ignorant to be out on the streets when they’re in that condition…

“An apology wouldn’t help a bit.”

Marko Kustudia, who has been employed as a casino host at Palace Station for over 20 years, showed more concern about his wife of 47 years.

He said when he realized what had happened the day of the crash, he worried about calling her, because she was expecting him back at their south valley home.

Now, Idonna Kustudia stays by his side all day, Marko Kustudia said. “I just hope it doesn’t affect her health.”

Contact Ricardo Torres at rtorres@reviewjournal.com and 702-383-0381. Find him on Twitter: @rickytwrites

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