Driver not charged after crash leaves 7-year-old cheerleader in coma, mother says

Police are investigating an accident that left a 7-year-old cheerleader fighting for her life.

Now the family is wondering why the police didn’t charge the driver who hit them.

Channel 2’s Tyisha Fernandes was in DeKalb County, where the accident happened on I-85 South in Chamblee, just two days before Christmas. Ashley Askew said the family’s car broke down on the highway, so she let the car go into the HOV lane and parked on the left shoulder, when a woman hit the car.

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The child, Leyla Askew, was preparing for a big cheerleading competition in Las Vegas. Now, she is in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury.

“My vehicle decided to stop,” said Ashley Marion, Leyla’s mother. “There’s no way I can go all the way to the right when the speedometer is dropping and all these cars are flying by, so I thought, ‘The closest lane is the HOV lane.’”

Marion said several other cars pulled out of the HOV lane to avoid hitting them, but one car did not.

“I was immediately knocked out. I had no idea we had been in an accident,” said Marion. “We arrived at the hospital and found out that my baby has suffered a traumatic brain injury and she needs to undergo surgery. I had to take care of my baby for 17 days on a ventilator.”

According to the incident report, the driver stopped and passed the information to the paramedics, but when a police officer told her to wait, she left the scene with a relative.

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Police are not classifying the accident as a hit-and-run but said they are still investigating.

“This is still leaving the scene of an accident,” Marion said.

Fernandes did some research and discovered that the driver, Juaoquim Washington, has a warrant from Douglas County for failing to appear in court on speeding and drug charges.

Fernandes spoke to Washington by phone, who said DeKalb police let her off the scene and that even she was surprised she wasn’t arrested on that warrant in Douglas County.

DeKalb County Police said they stand by what they wrote in the police report, saying Washington left the scene before they could give her a citation.

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