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Family of woman killed by fleeing vehicle in Pinellas Park braces for more pain to come

Eight-year-old I'on Robinson had questions.

Why did they crash into us and kill my mother, he asked his uncle Friday night. What will we do now?

Jerald Robinson, whose sister died Thursday night after police say two men who were fleeing a drug bust slammed into her car, had only questions himself.

"What do you tell an 8-year-old who's asking all these questions?" said Jerald Robinson, who rushed to St. Petersburg after the wreck.

In a telephone interview from All Children's Hospital Saturday night, Robinson questioned the judgment of Pinellas Park police who set up the sting at the Shoppes of Park Place plaza on U.S. 19.

"Why would you have a big drug sting like that in the middle of town where there's innocent people?" he asked.

Pinellas Park police could not be reached for comment late Saturday.

Nachenga Robinson, 32, was driving her three children and her father's girlfriend to Wal-Mart to buy groceries Thursday night when a Chevrolet Monte Carlo ran a red light and hit them at 70th Avenue N.

Pinellas Park police say the men in the car had just sold crack cocaine to undercover officers and sped away when police moved in to arrest them. Officers were not pursuing them when they crashed into Robinson's Ford Taurus.

Two St. Petersburg men — Rashane D. Barber, 21, and Devonta T. Merriex, 20 — were arrested after the crash. Merriex was charged with vehicular homicide, Barber with sale and possession of cocaine.

Three days later, Nachenga Robinson's family is grappling with inexplicable grief and a litany of injuries: The passenger, Caroline Johnson, 51, is still in critical condition. Robinson's oldest son, Eric, 13, has two broken legs and is being tested for internal injuries. The middle child, Obadiah, 11, has a broken leg and a broken arm.

I'on, whose injuries were least serious, has gone home to South Carolina.

Jerald Robinson, 39, is hoping to help the other boys get well enough for their mother's funeral in Florence.

"It's so hurtful to know all the pain hasn't even set in yet," he said.

Nachenga Robinson was living in a motel in Pinellas Park while she worked a temporary job welding at the Bartow Power Plant. She brought the kids with her for their summer vacation so they could spend time together and go to the beach.

She learned to weld in part because her brother Jerald did. She saw him working at Duke Energy and thought it would be a good way to provide for her kids. She worked in the shipyards and later for her brother. He was impressed at how skilled she was in a field considered the domain of men.

She made people laugh and drew children to her. Jerald Robinson, who has three children about the same age as hers, would plan their vacations together. They recently went to Orlando, visiting Disney Quest and driving to Clearwater Beach.

Nachenga Robinson mentioned that she was thinking about going to school to work in the funeral home industry, a comment that now only adds to how surreal the experience seems.

They were also planning a wedding. Nachenga was going to marry her fiance, Levi Robinson, in March. Her older sister had measured the bridesmaids and planned to make their dresses.

Now her fiance, whose name is coincidentally the same as Nachenga's, is at the hospital without her.

Though the boys know more about the crash than anyone else, Jerald Robinson hasn't told them about the circumstances that led to it. He doesn't think that would be appropriate.

Robinson is also upset that no one from Pinellas Park has called them to offer condolences.

But all that is secondary. For now, he's trying to focus on getting the children well and getting them home, where they can feel like life is "halfway normal."

"We're going to work through it," Robinson said. "It's just really unbelievable with the way this thing has happened."

Family of woman killed by fleeing vehicle in Pinellas Park braces for more pain to come 07/13/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 20, 2008 7:44am]
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