Mother speaks about pain of losing daughter who was celebrating 21st birthday

Posted at 11:24 PM, Apr 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-25 06:56:43-04

Norfolk, Va. - Karoline Johnson had plans to go out with her friends and sister and have a drink at midnight to celebrate her 21st birthday.

"We talked about if they did do that, they'd need a designated driver and I would go pick them up," Teri Johnson, Karoline's mother said. "That's what we don't understand, what went south."

Karoline was in the car with her friend Maxwell Salzman. He was driving when his car collided with a Norfolk police officer's cruiser.

She died in the crash early Friday morning, and instead of getting a call to pick her daughter up, Teri Johnson got a knock on the door from police.

"It was the most terrible thing in the whole world," Johnson said.

Johnson says her daughter wasn't good friends with Salzman.

"I don't know that there was drinking involved at this point," Johnson said. "I've heard all different kinds of things, and I'm not quite sure what has taken place here."

Teri Johnson's living room is filled with flowers after her daughter's funeral Tuesday.

Karoline was a former Little Miss Norfolk.

"She was a dancer, she was a performer, she was a triple threat," her mom said, the words bringing a smile to the woman's face.

That joy never faded. She could be bubbly and gregarious, and then focused.
The family doesn't have a photo of Karoline where she doesn't seem to jump off the screen.

"When people are around it seems to be better. When people leave, I haven't been alone yet, and I think that's going to be very hard whenever I'm alone," Johnson said.

Some young teens in the Johnson's Ocean View neighborhood, who looked up to Karoline, planted a dogwood tree in the Johnson's front yard. It's to remind Teri Johnson they're thinking of her. It should bloom next April.

New life coming about when Karoline would have turned 22 years old.

"It's all to come, I'm taking it day by day," Johnson said.