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Mother of baby killed in Isle of Wight crash questions why driver not charged in child's death

A 10-month-old girl died in April. A driver is charged with reckless driving, and that may be all the Commonwealth's Attorney can charge under Virginia law.

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. — Alisha Gray cannot shake this feeling of despair. 

"She had just learned how to blow kisses," said Gray. "She would grab your cheeks and kiss you." 

After years of trying, Gray and her husband finally had their little girl, Amelia Skyy White. 

"She hadn't even had her first birthday, yet," said Gray. "It was May 17." 

On April 5, their lives changed. 

Around 2:40 p.m., Gray said she stopped at a red light at the intersection of Brewers Neck Road Boulevard and New Towne Haven Lane. That's when her car cut off and forced her to turn on her hazard lights, she said. 

“I tried to start it again, and that’s when the car just completely cut off,” she said. “And then like five minutes after I did that, boom! I got hit."

Another driver rear-ended Gray, and her daughter was in the backseat. 

Amelia died two days later. 

Credit: Eugene Daniel
10-month-old Amelia Skyy White would have celebrated her first birthday on May 17.

A police report said the other driver, a woman, did not have their eyes on the road. She is now charged with reckless driving, but Gray wonders why there are currently no charges reflecting her daughter's death.  

“Just a reckless driving charge," she said. 

Isle of Wight Commonwealth's Attorney Georgette Phillips will not comment on a pending case, other than her office is waiting for the final crash report from Virginia State Police. Depending on the investigation, more charges could be added, said Phillips. 

“It’s tragic. It’s very tragic and no mother should ever lose a child in any circumstances,” she said. 

Phillips agreed to speak in general about the factors she considers in criminal charges for deadly crashes. She said Virginia state law carries a high threshold for charging motorists with more than reckless driving, even when someone dies in a crash.

“To a layperson or one who is not involved in the criminal justice system, some of the facts if you would hear in the cases you would be like, 'of course that’s involuntary manslaughter,' and the courts have said 'no,'" said Phillips. 

“The Supreme Court has actually defined involuntary manslaughter in the operation of a motor vehicle as the 'accidental killing which though unintentional is the proximate result of negligence that is so gross, wanton and culpable as to show a reckless disregard to human life," she explained.

For example, even in cases where someone drives the wrong way in traffic, she said the cases in which the driver has been charged with involuntary manslaughter is if they knew they were driving the wrong way, not the act itself. 

"So it's a very high standard for the willful and wanton negligence to rise to the level to prove involuntary manslaughter," she said.  

Phillips said there have been several cases in Isle of Wight County where people have died in crashes but reckless driving is all she could prosecute. However, she said there is a difference between criminal and civil cases.

Gray and Brandon Randleman, an advocate for Gray and her family, have been critical of the communication between the Commonwealth's Attorney office and the family, and the length of the investigation. 

Phillips said her office often does not receive vehicular crash information right away because of the investigation process, and said she requested final reports from Virginia State Police and to her knowledge, her office has not yet received those documents.

"The lack of communication is that I have nothing to report," she said, confirming she spoke with Gray in early May. "I am waiting for information, and I have nothing to tell her because I have not received the information." 

“Unfortunately a lot of times it does take a while because the investigators are trying to make sure that they’ve done everything that they can to investigate the case properly," she said.

In cases where drivers are charged quickly, Phillips said the actions are egregious to the point that no further investigation is needed, for instance, driving at an excessive speed or under the influence. 

Credit: Eugene Daniel

Gray does not want her daughter's case to be swept under the rug and wants justice. 

“That means if she has to go to jail, she has to go to jail. If she has to serve time, she has to serve time. If she has to pay a fine, she has to pay a fine,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s okay to just let her walk away. That is not fair.”

Gray has three other boys who loved their little sister. She used to pull on the boys’ shirts, ages 15, 12 and 7. She said Amelia set the tone for the household. She said her daughter did not like being alone and would not let her parents put her down. 

“Until then I need to fight for her. When I can finish fighting for her and see justice, then I can fight for myself," said Gray. 

The next court proceeding is scheduled for September. 

Amelia’s family did not have life insurance for the child. 

There is a Gofundme page to support the family. You can find that link here.

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