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Every Face Tells a Story

Jade was a spirited and animated young girl who loved to make people laugh. She was the queen of the house, the baby of the family, the spark in everyone’s life. Then, just a few days shy of her 10th birthday, while she and her family were driving back from her birthday party, a drunk driver T-boned their car, killing her in the crash.

Meet Jade Stephens.

JADE WOULD LIGHT UP THE ROOM

“To know Jade was to know true joy and happiness.”

Jade Gabrielle Stephens was a bubbly, outgoing, cheerful little girl who always had something witty to say. Her laugh was infectious, and she had a way of making everyone that she met feel specially loved.

At 9 years old, she was coming into her own, budding into a young lady whose future promised to be bright. She was so excited that she was getting ready to be in the “double digits.” Turning 10 years old was quite a big deal to her.

On July 19, 2014 – four days before her actual birthday on July 23 – the family celebrated her birthday with friends and family at a local entertainment center. Following an afternoon of bowling, gifts and her favorite cupcakes, Jade and her family were on their way back home when a drunk driver ran a stop sign, hitting the driver's side of the car. It hit so hard it knocked all the windows out. Jade was seated behind the driver– her dad.

“As a parent you think of all the possibilities that aren’t possible any longer,” said Eric Stephens, Jade’s father. “Jade was creative and talented — I could see her as an entertainer. Jade left a great impression in her short time here, but we’ll never know how great her impact could have been.”

"I'm a nurse. I know what death looks like when it's coming. I was just watching my baby slip away from me and there was nothing I could do," said LaKeitha Stephens, Jade’s mother. "I actually watched a tear roll down her eye as I was telling her to fight. Mommy's here with you, mommy's here with you."

Jade was the youngest of four siblings. Her twin sisters Tayler and Kayler had come home that weekend from college to celebrate her birthday. Her brother Mikhail, who was 14 at the time, was in the back seat with her when the crash occurred.

“We miss her every day, but we feel the loss of her presence particularly during family gatherings. We miss her joy, wit and infectious laugh,” said Eric. “No other family should experience a loss like ours due to drinking and driving. All it takes is planning ahead for a sober ride.”

DEPUTY BROWN

“What happened to Jade is every parent’s worst nightmare. Just imagine, celebrating your child’s birth and losing them that same day.”

Deputy Renae Brown thinks of Jade almost every day. She didn’t know Jade, but she feels like she does: Deputy Brown met Jade on the day she died, in a drunk driving crash that she just happened upon while on her way home.

“I drive by the intersection of the crash on my way to work every day, and I think of Jade and her family,” said Deputy Brown, who was off duty at the time but stopped at the scene of the crash to render aid. “People often don’t realize that a drunk driving crash has a ripple effect. While it obviously leaves the immediate family devastated, a whole community is changed. First responders, friends, teachers — we all remember the crash and mourn her loss.”

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