Petersburg mother sentenced to 12 years for DUI crash killing woman and child

By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- A single mother in Petersburg has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for driving while intoxicated crashing head-on into a family’s car while going the wrong direction in the northbound travel lanes on an interstate exit ramp on the evening of March 27, 2020.

The crash led to the death of Reinee Thomas, 43, along with her one-year-old grandson Jesiah Thomas who was heading home from a church function in Petersburg. Thomas’ adult daughter, La’Shawnda Newbill, and Jesiah’s mother, Gianna MacInnes-Olbash suffered severe injuries.

Danielle Nicole McDaniel was celebrating earlier that evening for her recent promotion as a full-time licensed practical nurse that came with a pay raise and health insurance for her and her 13-year-old daughter, her attorney, John Rockecharlie, told a judge in Chesterfield County Circuit Court.

There was a torrential downpour of rain when McDaniel was driving home and went through the intersection of Ruffin Mill and Woods Edge roads - where she was supposed to turn right - toward the first stoplight she saw. McDaniel then drove 300 to 500 yards on the northbound interstate exit ramp thinking she was heading south on I-95 before crashing into an oncoming vehicle.

At the scene of the crash, she could not tell troopers at the scene what road she was on and was observed stumbling while walking. The accident mostly left McDaniel uninjured besides a cut to her lower lip.

Authorities later determined McDaniel’s blood alcohol level was about 2.5 times over the presumptive legal intoxication level for driving at .205%.

In November, McDaniel pleaded guilty to two counts of causing permanent injuries while impaired, two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence and DUI-second offense within 10 years.

McDaniel’s Attorney John Rockecharlie urged the court to acknowledge who she was as a person with the verdict referencing accounts from her family and friends that she was kind and loving.

 A close and longtime friend of McDaniel testified that she was excited to work full time as a practical nurse and had been the primary caregiver to a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ken Chitty argued for a stiff sentence saying that the event may “have lifetime consequences that are just starting for this family.”

On Jan. 27, Chesterfield Circuit Judge Edward A. Robbins Jr. sentenced McDaniel to 41 years in prison which was suspended by 29 years after hearing testimony about McDaniel’s guilty pleas and accepting responsibility.

“Ms. McDaniel, we are not the sum of our worst days,” Robbins said from the bench. “What you did was a significant act of terrible judgment and has, as its consequences, the loss of two lives and the maiming of two others and the destruction of two large, loving extended families, one of which is your own. This was entirely predictable, and avoidable — particularly in light of your prior DUI conviction that put you on notice that an individual cannot drink and drive safely.”