Death of 6-year-old hit by Fla. train is ruled a suicide

June 16, 1993|By Trish Power | Trish Power,Knight-Ridder News Service

DANIA, Fla. -- As the locomotive approached in the crisp morning light, Jackie Johnson told her sister, her brother and her cousin she wanted to "be with the angels."

Moments later, the 6-year-old girl was struck and killed by the freight train.

Dr. Ronald Wright, the Broward County medical examiner, ruled the death a suicide yesterday afternoon.

Hers is considered the youngest suicide ever recorded in Broward County. Out of 2,616 suicides in Broward County since 1981, only 14 were under 15 years and none was younger than 12, the medical examiner said.

For the rest of the day Jackie's family, friends and neighbors struggled to understand why one so young would end her life.

Perhaps it was her mother's terminal illness.

Carla Johnson was released from a hospital here last week but is too ill to care for her children. The children -- Jackie, 6, Stephateria, 7, and Valerius Fox, 8 -- were staying with Ms. Johnson's cousin, Gloria Wright, to finish the school year in Dania.

Gloria Wright said the little girl never talked about her problems.

"She kept them all to herself," she said.

Yesterday started like any other. The children took the usual route to Dania Elementary School. They were walking along the railroad tracks about 7:30 a.m. when a northbound freight train approached.

"I told her to get off the train tracks," said Lakita Wimberly, 7, her cousin. "She said, 'No. I don't want to. I want to die.' "

The children grabbed Jackie and tried to move her as the train approached. But she wandered back to the wooden ties beside the tracks as the train bore down on her.

"She pushed them away, she fought them," said Gloria Wright, Lakita's mother.

With her back to the train, she waited. The cowcatcher on the front of the engine tossed her forward, breaking her neck.

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