On Sept. 16, Dazia Lee of Charlotte lost her son, Kaiden, during Hurricane Florence when floodwaters rushed her car.
On Oct. 29, she was charged with involuntary manslaughter, and driving on a closed or unopened highway in the toddler’s death.
The Washington Post reports Lee thought the storm was over,and strapped 1-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch into his car seat and headed toward her grandmother’s house. She told The Post that she saw cars emerging from a road that had barricades along the sides and thought it was safe. But after she drove past the barricades, her car was hit by a rush of water, and when she tried to escape, she lost her grip on little Kaiden. His body was found the next day.
“The evidence would support the filing of charges,” said Tony Underwood, chief communications officer for the sheriff’s office. Referring to a news conference at the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department the day Kaiden was found, he told The Post, “The facts were pretty well laid out based on that.”
At that conference, Union County Sheriff Eddie Cathey said barricades had been put up on the road. “Whether someone else moved those barricades and she drove around ’em, I can’t say,” he said.
“This mama has suffered tragically,” Cathey said. “She lost a child. That’s all you can say. But let me say this: These were dangerous times. Driving through water where the roads are closed is dangerous for anybody.”
The Post reports, Lee was served with a summons to appear in court Nov. 20 and the manslaughter charge carries a 13- to 16-month sentence.
To Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch of the NAACP, the decision to charge Lee stems from racism.
“She was attempting to get her child out of the car, not to have her child die, and to charge her on top of the fact that she is in mourning for the rest of her life, that represents implicit bias, insensitivity, and even racism,” Mack told the Post.
Mack also pointed out that two sheriff’s deputies have not been charged in the drowning deaths of two mental health patients in their care during the storm.
It is unclear what sort of legal representation Ms. Lee has.