- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

An 8-year-old girl on her way to Thanksgiving dinner died Thursday after a driver police said was driving drunk ran a red light and hit the car she was traveling in with her four sisters and brothers.

Police said Nicole Wingfield died at Children’s Hospital at about 5:30 p.m., about 21/2 hours after the Kia Sephia she was riding in was hit by a van at 27th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Three other youngsters riding in the car remained hospitalized yesterday. The children’s older sister, Kendrell Wingfield, 27, who was driving, was treated and released from Howard University Hospital on Thursday.

Police said Omie Henry Gladden, 43, of the 1800 block of Trenton Place SE, ran a red light traveling westbound on Pennsylvania Avenue SE and crashed into the car, which was traveling northbound on 27th Street SE. Authorities said police recovered a bottle of liquor from Mr. Gladden’s van.

During an arraignment yesterday afternoon at D.C. Superior Court, the D.C. Office of Corporation Counsel charged Mr. Gladden with driving under the influence, driving without a permit, driving an unregistered vehicle and reckless driving.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also filed a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen goods. Magistrate Judge Evelyn Coburn briefly recessed court, expecting that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would file further charges. When it did not, she ruled that Mr. Gladden was a flight risk and ordered him to a halfway house on the misdemeanor stolen goods charge until a Dec. 11 status hearing.

Mr. Gladden will remain at the D.C. jail until there is an opening at a halfway house, during which time additional charges could be filed.

Monty Wilkinson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Roscoe C. Howard, said additional charges have not been filed because the crash was still under investigation.

Mr. Gladden told police his dog was in the van and he was distracted by the animal when the collision occurred. D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said Mr. Gladden and a passenger in the van were not hurt and refused medical treatment.

“It’s very sad, especially on Thanksgiving,” Mr. Etter said. “We were all out there when [Nicole] was being resuscitated. It’s very disturbing.”

Nicolette Johnson, 11, who was in the back seat of the car, was ejected through the back window. She was conscious and responsive on her way to the hospital, authorities said.

“She actually was probably in the best shape of them all,” Mr. Etter said.

Jonathan Ethridge, 12, suffered cuts to his eye and forehead. Devin Wingfield, 5, suffered internal injuries and went into shock at Children’s Hospital, Mr. Etter said.

As the news of the girl’s death spread throughout the neighborhood, community members offered their condolences.

Vivian Weldon, the family’s next-door neighbor, said she watched from her house as the family got into the car Thursday just minutes before the accident.

“I just found about a half-hour ago that Nicole had passed away,” Mrs. Weldon, 64, said yesterday. “I was really upset when I found out. I heard about the accident, but I didn’t know it was them.”

Mrs. Weldon paused to collect herself as she described how she used to babysit Nicole.

“She was such a sweet little girl — really lively, really smart,” she said.

“They’re such a beautiful family. They loved each other and did things together. They were so well-mannered, and I loved them.”

She said Nicole’s mother had died and that the older sister was like an aunt who helped take care of the children with their father.

Louise Longus, who lives on the other side of the victim’s family, also expressed sympathy.

“She was so young. She didn’t even have time to grow up,” she said. “I was sorry to hear. I’ve been here for more than 20 years, so I’ve known [the family] a long time. They’re beautiful people.”

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