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UPPER MARLBORO — A grand jury has indicted a man who was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol causing a fatal multi-vehicle accident that killed three young children and critically injured their parents on Indian Head Highway at the turn of the new year, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office said.
The incident that occurred in Oxon Hill on the night of Dec. 30 has been esteemed as one of the most disheartening moments in 2018 for the county.
The noteworthy case has fallen into the hands of Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy less than a month into her new role.
Thomas Daniel Hawks, 27, of White Plains, Md., has been charged with three counts of vehicular manslaughter as a result of gross negligence and two counts of causing life-threatening injuries by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, Braveboy announced on Jan. 24 at a press conference.
If convicted, Hawks reportedly faces a maximum of 36 years in prison.
Returning home from a Washington Redskins football game, Hawks was driving alone in a pickup truck and rear-ended a vehicle carrying two adults and three children at around 9:40 p.m. on what is arguably one of the most hazardous highways in the Washington region (MD-210) near Wilson Bridge Drive in Oxon Hill.
The impact caused the victims’ vehicle to strike the car in front of it which struck another vehicle in front of it as well, according to the Prince George’s Police Department (PGPD).
The victims were said to have been in a sedan when the speeding pickup truck slammed into them from behind; the impact was so forceful, the car’s roof was ripped off, and the truck’s front tires tore into the back seat where the children were, police said.
Five-year-old twins, Alexander Mejia and Rosalie Mejia, and their baby brother 1-year-old Isaac Mejia, all of Falls Church, Va., were killed upon impact. The two adult victims, the children’s parents – Alexis and his wife Juanita – were transported to a local hospital immediately following the incident in critical but stable condition.
The Mejia parents have since been released and is still recovering from the substantial emotional and physical damage resulting from the crash. Juanita is said to have suffered five broken ribs, two broken backbones and a laceration in her arm requiring 22 stitches. Alexis is overcoming a severe brain injury, with both parents now helped by family members in Northern Virginia.
According to the State’s Attorney’s Office, Hawks turned himself in to authorities on Jan. 25, and a judge set his bail at $80,000 during his first appearance in a county court.
“Thomas Hawks, alleged drunk driver that caused the MD Rt. 210 crash that resulted in the deaths of three young children and life-threatening injuries to their parents, turned himself in last night and is now in custody,” the State’s Attorney’s Office tweeted on the afternoon of Jan. 26.
“Thomas Hawks arraigned today. Bond is still at $80k,” the office confirmed in a tweet on the morning of Jan. 28, attached with the hashtag #bravejustice.
Braveboy, after speaking with the Mejia family, also shared the message they wanted to send to the community, which was that they will miss their children “for the rest of their lives and that they loved them with all their hearts.”
“The defendant’s family will be able to see him and touch him, and my wife and I won’t be able to do that with our children ever again,” Braveboy read the words of the children’s father.
The Mejias buried their three children over the weekend of Jan. 19-20. They have vowed to stand with law enforcement and prosecutors to guarantee a safer 210 corridor once they regain their mobility, according to Braveboy.
Braveboy thanked her prosecuting team, partners in law enforcement and local governmental authorities for working to expedite the investigation and ensure justice for the Mejia family.
“This incident was a parent’s worst nightmare come true. In an instant, the Mejia’s lost their three young children and are now trying to recover from life-threatening injuries caused by the selfish and reckless actions of Thomas Daniel Hawks,” Braveboy said.
“Today, the Grand Jury agreed to indict Mr. Hawks on the most serious charges allowed by state law.”
Before surrendering himself, Hawks was issued a warrant for his arrest. Not only was he severely intoxicated and impaired, but was driving at an alarming speed, police said. After taking a breathalyzer test, Hawks registered a 0.17 blood alcohol concentration level, more than twice the legal limit.
Prince George’s Police Department Chief Hank Stawinski also attended the press conference to reflect on the incident and the subsequent investigation.
“This was devastating – principally to this family. And our hearts remain with them, and our prayers remain with them,” Stawinski said, thanking the county community, the grand jury, other law enforcement and public safety officials and the State’s Attorney’s Office’s diligence in the matter.
“Please have those difficult conversations,” Stawinski said in reference to raising drunk driving awareness. “Driving while intoxicated to any degree must stop.”
The collision continues to raise safety concerns and has prompted law enforcement in the state to look into precautions that can be applied to ensure a safer drive for commuters. Local public officials and prosecutors, including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, have promised a Route 210 crackdown on traffic violations following the three untimely deaths.
“My office is taking a hard line to drunk driving,” Braveboy added. “If you choose to drive drunk in Prince George’s County, you will face tough consequences.”