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'Ashley' Case Sent to Grand Jury

July 11, 2002

Duane Thompson — accused of striking 5-year-old Ashley Dubey of Centreville with his car and then driving off — had his preliminary court hearing, Tuesday afternoon. After hearing testimony, Judge Gayl Carr certified the case to the grand jury.

Some of the most damaging testimony came from the child's mother, Seema Dubey, describing the harrowing events of May 2, around 8:30 a.m., on Old Centreville Road at Cottingham Lane in Crofton Commons. Her daughter was about to catch a bus for Bull Run Elementary.

"I was helping her cross the street and, for a split second, she let go of my hand," said Dubey. "This car came out of nowhere and hit her, and she went about 50 feet in the air." Asked Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell: "Did the car ever stop after it hit her?"

"No," replied Dubey, in tears. "I asked for help. I screamed my lungs out, saying, 'Stop, stop,' and the car didn't stop — it just kept going." She said the driver appeared to slow afterward, but drove on.

After determining that Thompson, 38, of 14530 Gateshead Lane in Manassas, allegedly drove the maroon, 1997 Chrysler Cirrus that struck Ashley, police charged him with felony hit-and-run — punishable by a possible five years in prison.

Tuesday, in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Thompson listened quietly as several witnesses testified against him. First was Centreville's Millie Poppin who, on May 2, was outside her car, parked in front of the Cottingham stop sign.

"I heard a thud," she said. "I turned and saw something fall to the ground and a dark car proceeding past me. I heard someone scream and saw a mother holding a child in her arms. I got the [car's license] tag number in my head and [looked for someone with] a pen and paper to write it down." One woman just had a pen, so Poppin wrote it on top of the woman's hand.

"Did you ever see the vehicle stop or someone get out of it?" asked Mitchell. "No, ma'am," replied Poppin. Under questioning from defense attorney Robert Horan III, she couldn't estimate the driver's speed. She said the child fell near a parked, white van.

Latoya Walker of Manassas Park was turning her car onto Old Centreville Road when she "saw something hit the road. It took me a few seconds to realize it was a child. I saw a backpack ... a shoe. I stopped my car, threw it into park, grabbed my cell phone, ran to the mother and called 911. I saw a dark vehicle driving off."

Walker said Poppin wrote the tag number on her hand and she relayed it to 911. She said the child was wearing pink clothing and had dark hair. Catherine Douglas, a public safety call-taker, said she received this information from Walker. She said she and Thompson used to work together at Circuit City so, after police tied the license tag to his name, she told them he now worked at Best Buy.

Police Officer Michael O'Brien Jr. found the car in the Best Buy, Fair Lakes, parking lot with the engine warm and the hood dented in the middle. "There were pink markings on the license plate — which was slightly bent, and pink fiber under one of the license-plate numbers," testified O'Brien. "The front-passenger windshield wiper was broken, and a dark-colored fiber — it appeared to be hair — was attached to it."

He said Thompson came outside, identified his car and stated: "I'm in big trouble now, huh? She just came out of nowhere, and I didn't know what to do."

Det. Elizabeth Dohn testified that she, too, saw black hair in the windshield wiper, a dented hood with fibers stuck to its front and "a smear of bright pink" on the license plate. She spoke with Thompson at Best Buy.

She said he told "he was the only one driving the vehicle that day. I told him we were investigating the car because it had been involved in an accident, and he said he had not been in an accident that day. I told him we were going to seize the car as evidence and that detectives would come to talk with him."

Horan asked Dubey if the driver looked back and if she saw his face, and she said 'yes' twice. Ashley is now in a rehabilitation hospital with mobility, speech and vision problems.