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Driver in 2021 double fatal wreck in Newton County charged
Zheng - photo by Courtesy of the Newton County Sheriff's Office

COVINGTON, Ga. — An Atlanta man has been charged with vehicular homicide almost two years after a March 2021 incident in which two people were killed on I-20 in east Newton County.

Kuan Jian Zheng, 64, was booked into the Newton County Detention Center last week after being charged with Failure to Maintain Lane, Second Degree Homicide by Vehicle and Improper Lane Usage, all misdemeanors, in relation to the March 14, 2021, fatal wreck between the exits for Georgia highways 11 and 142. 

It resulted in the deaths of Milledgeville residents Darren “Buddy” Horton, 51, and his wife, Stephanie Michelle Horton, 48, and seriously injured Zheng — who reportedly spent the past two years recovering.

A warrant stated he was driving a 2015 Toyota RAV4 westbound at mile marker 96, about two miles past Georgia Hwy. 11, when the vehicle did an improper lane change and struck a Chrysler 200 in the lane beside it, a warrant stated.

The driver overcorrected and the vehicle flipped on its side, crossed the center median and struck the Hortons' eastbound 2019 Toyota Tacoma driven by Stephanie Horton.

The occupants of the Chrysler 200 were not seriously injured. Its driver, Morgan Green, 27, of Social Circle, was with her daughters, ages 2 and 9, when they reportedly were struck. 

”We are not physically hurt, I just have a little neck pain. But the trauma from witnessing such a horrific event will definitely stay with us forever,” Green told The Covington News. 

She said they were en route to a restaurant at the next exit when she saw the RAV4 strike her vehicle, turn to the left and go airborne.

"I somehow managed to maintain control of my vehicle while seeing all of this in my peripheral vision, and we pulled safely to the side of the road. I knew we got lucky. We were all OK," Green said in a posting on her Facebook page. 

"I can’t really explain the feelings I went through. But I can say that I am so thankful that my girls are OK. Please pray for the others involved and the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives today.”

Buddy Horton was an employee of Heart Ministries where he worked to help addicts recover through Christ, an obituary stated. Michelle Horton was an employee of Atrium Health Navicent.

A judge indicated an interpreter will be needed during the legal process for Zheng, who is a native of China.