As crashes go, the two-car collision on Interstate 95 north of Richmond late Tuesday was considered somewhat minor, authorities said yesterday. Until, that is, one of the drivers said something very odd.
While being treated for bruises and scrapes at a nearby hospital, Channoah A. Green of Newport News told a Virginia State Police trooper, Master Sgt. D.R. Reed, that she had dropped her child off "up the road" from the crash site in Hanover County.
"The trooper thought, 'Yeah, right,' because he hadn't seen any reports," said Sgt. Kevin Barrick, a spokesman for the state police Richmond division. "But it stayed with him, and so he put out a lookout after he was done interviewing her."
Within minutes, there was a match.
More than 90 miles away in Fairfax County, authorities had in their custody a precocious 4-year-old boy who had recited for them his full name, age, home phone number and mother's name. The boy told state police that his mother had left him on the side of the Capital Beltway because he had misbehaved and then bumped him with her car as she headed south. Based on the boy's account, police in Newport News were looking for Green, 22.
"It was a good thing he put it out, because as soon as he did, we had the information," Barrick said. "It all just fell together at the right time, luckily."
State police, who say Green abandoned her son on the Beltway, charged her with felony neglect.
Green was treated for minor injuries and left the hospital a few hours after the 11:30 p.m. crash, which occurred more than an hour after her son was left near the Lee Highway overpass. She was charged with reckless driving in the Hanover crash, a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail or up to $2,500 in fines.
Green was transferred yesterday from the Hanover jail to the Fairfax jail and is scheduled to appear this morning for an arraignment in the county's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. She was charged with one count of felony child neglect and hit and run, police said.
A woman who lives in the same apartment complex as Green said yesterday that she knew the mother and son in passing. They moved in about a year ago and have always been very friendly, Jessie Shepard said.
"She keeps her son very clean, and he's very polite," she said. "He would come running up to me to give me hugs, and he'd say, 'I love you,' so she evidently taught him that."
News of the criminal charges against Green surprised her, Shepard said.
"Maybe she just snapped," she said in a telephone interview. "She doesn't have to have been a bad mother to have done what they say she's done. Maybe there was just too much pressure on her, and she didn't know what she was doing."
According to the police account, Green told investigators that she probably fell asleep while driving her 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer. She was headed south toward Newport News, she told them, a nearly seven-hour journey from New Jersey, where she and her son had been visiting the boy's father. She hadn't slept in about three days, state police say she told them.
Police would not say yesterday whether Green explained what happened on the Beltway, but the boy told authorities that he wasn't sitting in the car as he was supposed to, angering his mother.
The preschooler, whose name was withheld because of the ongoing criminal investigation, was trying to get back into the car when Green struck him and drove off, state police said. He was found wandering on the shoulder of the heavily traveled interstate moments later by another driver. He was later placed with Fairfax County Child Protective Services.
Green exited onto Interstate 95 and drove south, police said. About 85 miles later, she swerved left from the center lane, struck a guardrail, bounced off and crashed into a Toyota Camry, they said.
The driver of the Camry suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.