- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

BALTIMORE A habitual drunken driver yesterday morning hit a mother and three children with her car, killing one of the children, before driving away.

Two passengers in Debra Ann Chafin's car said she never saw the family of four. Mrs. Chafin had a blood alcohol level of .27 and was driving into the morning sun when she heard a scream a second too late.

Mrs. Chafin knew the woman, her baby and two little girls were injured, the passengers said. But she had been drinking and did not stop.

"We kept telling her, 'Go back. You have to go back and make sure they're OK,'" said passenger Rose Newsome. "She asked us not to say anything and to take it to the grave, but I couldn't do that."

Police said Mrs. Chafin, 45, who had a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit, was taken into custody after they received a tip.

Court records show Mrs. Chafin has been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol twice in North Carolina, in 1993 and 1996. In addition, she pleaded guilty to her most recent DUI charge January 1999 in Anne Arundel County.

A fourth charge, in North Carolina, was dismissed in 1993.

Police said Mrs. Chafin went through a red light about 8 a.m., plowing over the mother and children in the crosswalk.

She now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, driving under the influence and leaving an accident scene.

Brejae Danesha Harris, 7, died at the intersection of Moravia Road and Sipple Avenue, about 100 yards from her destination Furley Elementary School.

Listed in good condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital were Brejae's mother, Monique Glover, 27; Miss Glover's son, 10-month-old Jae Lynn Glover; and Monique Sandy-Bell, 6, who is not related to Miss Glover. All three were expected to be released yesterday.

Mrs. Chafin's husband, Richard Thibou, declined to comment about the accident yesterday.

Mrs. Newsome and Sarah Goods said they saw Mrs. Chafin drink two Budweisers before getting in the car with her for a trip to Home Depot. They said they didn't think she was drunk; Miss Newsome had had a beer herself.

Miss Newsome said she often drinks with Mrs. Chafin in the morning after their husbands go to work.

"She has a beer, and I have a beer," Mrs. Newsome said.

Mrs. Chafin's husband owns the brick row home that the women and their two families share. Mrs. Newsome lives upstairs and Mrs. Chafin lives downstairs.

Miss Goods said they had just turned onto Moravia Road and were pulling down their visors against the sun when they heard Miss Glover scream.

Both passengers said the mother and children were crossing in the middle of the block not at the crosswalk where a guard was keeping watch, as police say.

Miss Goods saw the mother fall to the side. She saw her baby boy flipped back over her shoulder and onto the pavement. She saw two little girls lying still in the street. She said she couldn't believe that Mrs. Chafin drove on.

The two women calmed their friend after returning home. They found an excuse to leave the house, they said, and called police from Mrs. Newsome's mother's home across town.

Police wouldn't say what led them to Mrs. Chafin's home only that they got a tip.

When investigators arrived, they found Mrs. Chafin's Lincoln with a broken right-front turn signal. Mrs. Chafin was inside, lying on a bed unresponsive.

The couple often drank quietly with friends on their side patio in good weather. Often, it was beer in bottles wrapped in paper bags, said neighbor Sheila Watkins.

Miss Watkins picked up her 9-year-old son and 5-year-old grandson early from Furley Elementary. Teachers, students and parents hugged as they talked about the tragedy, Miss Watkins said.

"It's a real somber atmosphere," she said. "We're all just praying about it."

Her boys often play outside, she said, riding their bikes along the street she shares with Mrs. Chafin.

"I'll think about that even more now," said Miss Watkins.

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