LOWELL, Ark. – A Florida man convicted of killing a northwest Arkansas police chief in a drunk driving crash is expected to be released from prison on Monday.
Jimmy John Christo Jr., 63, served approximately 10 years of a 12-year prison sentence at the Florida Department of Corrections for the May 2012 death of Lowell Police Chief Joe Landers.
“My biggest issue is that he left my dad laying in the middle of the road to die,” said his son Caleb Landers referring to the fatal crash.
“Once law enforcement found him he (Christo) claimed he thought he hit a kid on a scooter,” Landers said.
Joe Landers, who was the Lowell police chief for 15 years, was driving a motorcycle at the time of the crash.
Landers, the father to two sons and two stepchildren, was at a motorcycle rally and was making a turn with a group of bikers when he was hit. Landers died a week later, according to published reports.
Christo was convicted of leaving the scene of a crash involving death and manslaughter, driving under the influence, three misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia, according to published reports.
Landers remembers driving to Panama City Beach to attend Christo’s sentencing where he gave a victim-witness impact statement.
In the courtroom, Christo turned to talk to Landers. He expressed his feelings in a social media post.
“As soon as I … (saw) his face I lost it. I could feel the blood boil in my body. Standing in front of the judge trying to explain the impact was harder than I could have imagined. I rehearsed what I was going to say a thousand times but once I got in front of the judge I could barely speak.”
2016 Facebook Post
“He (Christo) did not have any previous DUIs on his driving record, but we received numerous letters from residents of the area who said he had been in and out of trouble his whole life,” Landers said.
Christo had a blood alcohol level almost three times over the legal limit, Landers said.
“He should have never been allowed to drink that much and then drive,” Landers said.
“I think that leaving someone to die should constitute murder and not manslaughter,” Landers said.
“I also wish that bars that overserve their patrons could be held more accountable,” Landers said. “We were told he had just left his job as a bartender at one of the local bars before hitting my dad.”
Landers said despite the family receiving information about numerous incidents involving Christo he was “…unsure of how true any (of those statements) are.”
“My dad had a very giving spirit and willingness to help those in need,” Landers said. “He was one of the least judgmental people I knew.”
“He did his job without bias and would always make sure we knew that people weren’t necessarily bad that they just made bad choices,” Landers said.
Christo did not attempt to reach out to the Landers family, but Christo’s family attempted to make contact and sent a condolence card. The Landers family declined their visit.