Driver in fatal Woodmore bus crash in Chattanooga denied parole

Staff photo / Woodmore bus driver Johnthony Walker walks back to his seat after giving a statement during his sentencing hearing in Judge Don Poole's courtroom at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Courts Building on April 24, 2018. Walker was convicted in of criminally negligent homicide and a host of lesser charges and was sentenced to four years in prison. This week the Tennessee Board of Parole denied Walker parole.

The Tennessee Parole Board on Thursday denied parole to the man convicted in the fatal Woodmore bus crash.

"The board's final decision was to decline to the balance of his sentence due to the seriousness of the offense and high risk," Dustin Krugel, the communications director of the Tennessee Board of Parole, said in an email to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Johnthony Walker will not receive parole nor will he have another parole hearing, according to Krugel, who said that "three concurring board members were needed" to reach Thursday's decision.

Prosecutors showed evidence at Walker's trial that he was using his phone while driving and was going 50 mph on a narrow, curvy road in Brainerd, ultimately crashing into a walnut tree and killing six of the 37 Woodmore Elementary School students on the school bus he was driving Nov. 21, 2016.

Walker was sentenced to serve four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. He later plead guilty to eight counts of statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl in Davidson County, to which he was sentenced to serve six years concurrently with the Hamilton County sentence.

On Jan. 24, a parole hearing officer recommended Walker not be granted parole after a hearing.

"The board reviews each case separately based on its own merits and a host of criteria, including the offender's institutional record, nature of crime, the amount of time served, a risk/needs assessment, victim input and the statements of the offender and support, in determining to grant parole to an eligible offender," Krugel said.

Walker is serving his sentence at the medium-security Hardeman County Correctional Facility and is scheduled to be released on Oct. 22, 2025, according to the Tennessee Department of Correction website.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at or 423-757-6476.