Woman Driving Under the Influence with Children In the Car Fatally Strikes a Teen; Trooper Blames the 17-Year-Old, and Driver Has Seen No Charges for the Death In Nearly Two Years

A Lawrenceville mother is still grieving nearly two years after her 17-year-old daughter was hit and killed by a Winder, Georgia, woman driving under the influence and still no criminal charges have been filed against the driver.

“For her not to be around the family, it’s like a wound that cannot be healed,” said Pauline Osuegbu, mother of Obianuju Osuegbu, 17, killed in the accident on August 23, 2020. “It’s unreal that somebody that murdered a young girl is going around freely and nothing is happening,” Osuegbu continued.

Around 8:40 p.m., that August evening, 17-year-old Osuegbu was riding her electric bike from her job at a local supermarket in Winder, Georgia, which is about 48 miles northeast of Atlanta. As Osuegbu was about a quarter mile from her home, she was hit from behind by a Ford Taurus driven by Chrissy Rawlins, who is white and now 43.

According to a Georgia State Patrol incident report, Rawlins told responding troopers, she didn’t know what she hit and that it was dark, and she didn’t see any lights or reflectors. The trooper notated he did not see any lights on the bicycle.

However, officers on scene suspected Rawlins was under the influence based on her dilated pupils and slurred speech so they gave her a field sobriety test.

Osuegbu says the night of the fata accident, troopers told her at the hospital they were not going to blame Rawlins for her daughter’s death although at the time, Rawlins was sitting in the Barrow County detention center because of her DUI arrest at the accident scene where blood tests later revealed she had gabapentin, benzodiazepines, diazepam, meclizine, and methamphetamine in her system.

“It was two state troopers, he told me, Ms. Osuegbu, I’m sorry for your loss, he says it wasn’t the driver’s fault, my daughter was wearing dark clothes and she was riding a bike that doesn’t have lights, these are the stuff he mentioned, and I was very disappointed of the stuff that was coming out of his mouth,” Osuegbu said.

“Ms. Rawlins was visibly intoxicated to the point officers charged her with DUI and she had two small minor children in the back of the car, they charged her with endangering her children,” said Bruce Hagen, Osuegbu’s attorney.

Despite Rawlins being arrested for DUI, she was not charged for hitting and killing Oseugbu. Hagen says the trooper’s incident report failed to accurately portray the accident the night it happened.

“They’ve never determined this lady’s speed, they never tried to determine braking distance, did she even brake. They never tried to determine the speed of Ms. Osuegbu bike as she was going on to determine the relative difference in speed, they didn’t do anything,” Hagen said.

The report claims Oseugbu did not have a light on her electric bike, and she was not wearing a helmet, which Hagen counters by saying her bike did have a reflector and by law she was not required to wear a helmet or have a light.

Georgia law requires bicyclists to have a red reflector or light on the rear, and helmets are only required for bicyclists under the age of 16.

“What’s required at minimum is to have a red reflector on the bicycle and her bike had a red reflector on the back. A bicyclist may ride as far to the ride as is practical meaning it is up to the bicyclist to decide where in the lane, they are safest. She was about to make a left turn onto the street where she lives so of course she would not be to the far right of the roadway she would be to the middle-center,” Hagen said.

“I pointed out all the many flaws in this report as well as the issues with the toxicology and the supervisor at the State Patrol has made it clear they’re not going to do anything to correct this report unless the District Attorney tells them to do so,” Hagen went on to say in frustration.

Atlanta Black Star called the Barrow County District Attorney to learn why no charges have been filed in the 18-months since the accident, the DA office directed our requests to Barrow County Solicitor General Kyle Sharry.

Sharry said by phone, the DA is the only office that can bring felony charges, but since the trooper’s report failed to attribute Rawlins’ DUI to the cause of the crash, the DA sent the case to the Solicitor General, which handles misdemeanors.

Sharry says his office is still investigating but anticipates filing misdemeanor charges against Rawlins, although he would not say what the charges will likely be.

“A misdemeanor is not something serious. I’m talking about the death of my daughter. If he called you and told you he’s not responsible for charging her for a felony for a vehicle homicide, then who is responsible, is it the DA’s office,” Pauline Osuegbu asked upon learning of the looming misdemeanor charge.

Hagen says Barrow County District Attorney Brad Smith could investigate and file criminal charges on his own if he wanted.

“It’s taking so long because we’ve been waiting for law enforcement to do their job, we’ve been waiting on prosecutors to do their job, and nobody has done their job here and meanwhile there’s a dead 17-year-old Black girl,” Hagen said in dissatisfaction.

Osuegbu suggested her daughter’s race could be behind the slow-walking of the case. “I’m very disappointed maybe because my child is Black and that’s the way they’re treating her the way they’re treating her. She died and her death is like nothing, like she’s not a human being that’s really what it felt like, like she wasn’t human being,” Osuegbu said.

As Obianuju Osuegbu’s case for justice and accountability continues, her family is still dealing with the loss of their loved one who was a senior in high school, and as her mom described, smart, friendly and an aspiring film student.

“She has a passion to be a film producer, but her dream was cut short. Even though my daughter, I cannot see her again, I need something to be done. I need justice,” Osuegbu said of her daughter’s case.

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