Tiffany Brown, who was killed by a van after school, focused much of her free time on her family

Girl's life full of family routines ends abruptly

December 08, 2006|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,Sun reporter

Tiffany Brown's Christmas list included a Tweety Bird coat, a Tweety Bird blanket, Tweety Bird sheets and a cell phone.

Those gifts would have been carefully wrapped and tucked under the little tree that she and her young sister had decorated with gold tinsel and red bows. They would have been opened at the family Christmas party.

But Tiffany's life ended abruptly in Pigtown on Wednesday when a van hit the 13-year-old and a boy minutes after classes let out at Diggs-Johnson Middle School at 3:35 p.m.

"It hurts so bad," Tiffany's mother, Mechell Parents, said yesterday as tears streamed down her face. "She was my baby. She was respectful, she was a good girl. ... I wasn't there, but I would like badly to know what happened."

Tiffany was on her way to Paul's Place, a nearby after-school outreach center, when a woman driving a van through an intersection on James Street hit the boy, Javon Randolph, and then slammed into her, according to police.

Chantell Hudson, Javon's mother, said her son told her that he was hit while attempting to cross James Street. "The light was red, so he stepped out," Hudson said he told her.

The impact sent him into a parked car. A witness called Hudson, who rushed to the street, where Javon was able to wrap his arms around her waist. The boy, a seventh-grader at Diggs-Johnson, was home yesterday recovering from bruises.

Tiffany, who was about 6 feet from Javon, was struck next, according to Hudson, and lay on the ground bleeding in her green and khaki school uniform. A neighbor ran several blocks and found her aunt, Annette Chestnut, who watched paramedics work furiously to save her niece.

She climbed into the ambulance and rode with her for the short trip to Maryland Shock Trauma Center but wasn't able to touch Tiffany or hold her hand. "There were too many people working on her," she said.

Tiffany was declared dead shortly after she arrived at the hospital. By this time her mother had heard the news and rushed to the hospital from work, where doctors came out to say they couldn't save her little girl.

The driver of the van has not been charged with a crime, and police would not release her name.

Officer Troy Harris, a police spokesman, said the accident is under investigation and he would not comment about whether authorities believe the light at James Street was red or green.

Police said there was a crowd of children in the intersection when the accident occurred.

The investigation could last 60 to 90 days, and police plan to reconstruct the accident, according to Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.

Burns said that if a citation is issued prematurely, prosecutors can have a difficult time coming back and levying more serious charges later.

The city school system has sent 18 crisis counselors to Diggs-Johnson to help Tiffany's classmates. "This has been a very difficult time for students and staff especially during this season of traditional celebration with children and families," Charlene Cooper Boston, the interim chief executive officer of the city schools, said in a statement.

Tiffany's family wants to know what happened. "I pray that [the driver] sees what she did was very wrong," said Sharon Chestnut, who was at the family house on Brunswick Street yesterday to comfort her sister.

When the two sisters embraced, Chestnut lost her composure and began weeping. "Oh God, I can't take this," she said.

Parents sat hunched over, rocking back and forth and touching a gold cross around her neck as she explained her daughter's routine. Tiffany would wake up and immediately turn to the computer to start sending instant messages and e-mail to friends. Then she'd flick on the stereo - often picking a Cheetah Girls album.

The family planned a candlelight vigil for yesterday evening. They invited pupils from her middle and elementary schools to come to James Street and pray. An aunt had T-shirts made with her picture on the front.

Much of Tiffany's free time was focused on her family. She earned money baby-sitting her younger relatives on weekends - a 5-year-old boy and 18-month-old twins. She'd try to braid the twins' hair. "But they wouldn't sit for it," her mother said.

Tiffany's mom hoped that her daughter would work at a salon that a relative was planning to open. She could sit for hours, patiently forcing her friends', relatives' and neighbors' hair into neat plaits. One neighbor paid her to do it.

Parents told her children to always go straight home after school and not to talk to people in the streets. "I didn't want anything to happen to her," she said.

The family even had a secret code. If an adult offered her children a ride, the adult had to repeat a phrase to prove he'd been sent by a parent. It was easy to remember: "I love you."

Sun reporter Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

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