One year ago, Monroe was trying to grasp what had happened: A prom night car crash killed a Monroe High School senior, injured the driver and two passengers and eventually divided, then galvanized the community.
On April 27, 2018, Chynna Brandon, 17, driving her father’s 2013 Tesla, veered off the right side of Millikin Road in Liberty Twp., over-corrected, traveled into the westbound lane, into a ditch, struck a fence and sideswiped a telephone pole, according to the accident report from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office.
She reportedly was driving faster than 100 mph, more than twice the posted limit.
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Kaylie Jackson, 17, a senior at Monroe, was a backseat passenger. She was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the car, according to the accident report. She died three days later at University Cincinnati Medical Center. The other three Monroe students in the car, Tanner Allford, Mitchell Foster Jr, and Brandon, were injured.
Brandon pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in juvenile court in December. After 14 people addressed the court, visiting Judge Thomas Lipps announced he was sentencing Brandon to the Miami Valley Rehabilitation Center in Xenia. She may spend six months there and continue receiving mental health treatments, the judge said.
“I will never be forgiven for what happened,” Brandon told those in the courtroom. “I will always be hated by families and everyone involved.”
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At the hearing, Jackson’s family said they wanted a stiffer punishment. Her mother, Amanda Garcia, told the judge she wakes up every day hoping what she’s been living was just a nightmare.
Several of Jackson’s family said they blamed the driver for causing the fatal accident.
As a mother, Garcia’s job was to protect her daughter, she said.
“I failed,” she said.
Later, Garcia told the driver: “I will forgive you someday.”
Lawsuits have also been filed against Brandon’s parents.
Allford’s complaint alleges he suffered numerous injuries in the crash, including traumatic brain damage and a “major” laceration of the liver. It also says he “is suffering from PTSD, nightmares of the crash and psychological trauma associated with the death of his girlfriend.”
The civil wrongful death lawsuit by Jackson’s parents, seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $25,000, was filed June 1.
At the time of the deadly accident, Phil Cagwin was superintendent of the Monroe district. He remembers how the tight-knit community “pulled together” hours after the accident, and how Jackson was remembered at high school graduation May 19 at Princeton Pike Church of God.
“These types of events never are easy,” said Cagwin, who has retired. “They’re so tragic, so difficult to understand.”
He was asked if it feels like the accident occurred one year ago.
“Sometimes,” he said, “time seems to stand still. Other times, it doesn’t. Hopefully, like they say, time heals all wounds.”
Pastor Mitchell Foster’s son, Mitchell Foster Jr., 18, was one of the passengers in the car. He was sitting in the front seat. He had to be extricated from the vehicle, and he suffered suffered facial fractures, a broken jaw and a broken nose.
He graduated from Monroe, then enrolled at Ohio State University. Foster said his son struggled academically immediately following the accident until he forgave Brandon.
“He had to push past that,” the pastor said.
Foster Jr. said during his freshman year at OSU, he learned there is “no point” to hold hate toward the driver.
His father will never forget getting the phone call that his son was involved in the accident, and Jackson was fighting for her life.
“That changed our lives,” he said. “Changed the way we view life, changed the way we approach life. We can’t take life for granted. You can see it one day and the next day, it’s gone.”
Foster remembers sitting in the courtroom with other parents when Brandon was sentenced. The room was filled with sadness and bitterness, he said.
“Everybody had mixed feelings,” he said. “We all were numb in a different way.”
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