It won't take away her injuries or undo the trauma her family's still suffering, but the hit-and-run driver who struck 5-year-old Ashley Dubey of Centreville with his car — and then drove off — has pleaded guilty to the deed.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 6, Duane Thompson, 38, of 14530 Gateshead Lane in Manassas, pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run before Judge Marcus Williams in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
"He wanted to accept responsibility," said defense attorney Robert F. Horan III. "He's certainly concerned for the young girl."
However, none of that concern was evident in Thompson's actions, May 2, around 8:30 a.m., when he slammed into the Bull Run Elementary kindergartner with his car as she was crossing Old Centreville Road to catch her school bus. The child went flying, but Thompson continued on his way to work.
The incident happened near Cottingham Lane in the Crofton Commons community where Ashley, now 6, lives with her family. Her mother, Seema Dubey, was holding her hand when, for a split second, Ashley let go and headed across the road.
That's when Thompson, en route from home to work, came along in his Chrysler Cirrus. At his preliminary hearing in July, witnesses testified that he never stopped his vehicle. But they got his license-plate number and told police.
Public safety call-taker Catherine Douglas received the information. She and Thompson once worked together and, after police obtained his name from his license-tag registration, she told them he now worked at Best Buy in Fair Lakes.
Police Officer Michael O'Brien Jr. found the car there with the engine warm and the hood dented in the middle. He said Thompson came outside, identified his car and stated: "I'm in big trouble now, huh?"
Police charged him with felony hit-and-run — punishable by a possible five years in prison. Meanwhile, Ashley sustained a severe head injury, affecting her speech and vision, plus movement on her right side.
She underwent five brain surgeries at Inova Fairfax Hospital and then received therapy at a rehabilitation center in Charlottesville before coming home in late July — 2 1/2 months after the accident. She still receives therapy and is now a special-ed student in first grade.
"They designed a special [program] for her because she's slower, compared to last year," said her mother. "My hope is that next year she'll be OK."
Horan said his client has no prior record, and he hopes the judge considers that when sentencing Thompson in January. "He's a person who made a mistake," said Horan. "If he had stopped, it wouldn't have changed a thing [that happened to Ashley] but, from all accounts of what happened — [her darting into the road] — I think it's unlikely he would have been charged."
Dubey said it's still hard on the family and she can't sleep nights. As for Thompson's guilty plea, Dubey said, "He can live with it now — but I just wish it never happened."