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Car crash kills new Hephzibah High graduate

Official suspects homecoming queen was texting, speeding

Corey Perrine/Staff
Monicha Taylor (right), 16, leans down to add a candle as other students look on during the vigil at Hephzibah High School. Monicha played on the soccer team with Miller.
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Sanchezia Simmons never saw her best friend Jewel Miller send a text message while driving, but she knew it happened.

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Roselyn Miller hugs friends and classmates of her daughter Jewel at Hephzibah High School. Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil Thursday night for the 18-year-old who died in a car accident fewer than two days after her graduation.  Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Roselyn Miller hugs friends and classmates of her daughter Jewel at Hephzibah High School. Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil Thursday night for the 18-year-old who died in a car accident fewer than two days after her graduation.

"She would text and drive. Our friends told her she needed to stop," Simmons said. "I think many teens, or anybody, can learn from her mistake."

Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen said that mistake, combined with speeding, might have led to the fiery crash that killed the Hephzibah High School homecoming queen less than two days after her graduation.

Her flip phone was found lying open, next to her body.

"It appears that she was," Bowen said. "We're not sure 100 percent but that's the way it was looking."

Bowen said officials will subpoena Miller's Verizon Wireless cell phone records to determine whether she was using the phone at the time of the accident. It will take about two weeks to receive the phone records, he said.

Miller, 18, graduated from Hephzibah High on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday night, Miller was traveling west in the 1900 block of Hephzibah McBean Road when she lost control of her Chevy Aveo and ran off the road. Her car struck a power pole, snapping it in half and causing Miller to be ejected from the vehicle. The car burst into flames.

Miller was partially trapped under the vehicle and suffered burns over most of her body, which caused her death, Bowen said. She was pronounced dead shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday.

The news shocked fellow Hephzibah students who gathered at the school Thursday. About 100 of them stood for hours in the heat consoling each other and sharing memories of the girls soccer and volleyball team captain.

Many described her as funny, outgoing and down-to-earth in spite of the popularity that brought her the homecoming queen title last fall.

Elizabeth Alspaugh had last seen Miller moments before she crossed the stage at James Brown Arena on Tuesday. Alspaugh, who had known her since middle school, warned Miller of the slippery stage.

"I said, 'Be careful.' She was like, 'Girl, I got this,' " Alspaugh recalled. "She was just such an inspiration. She motivated us."

Alspaugh and Miller both served as captains of the volleyball team.

She was set to play volleyball on a scholarship for a small school in Wisconsin, Simmons said.

Hephzibah High principal Walter Reaves said students and staff gathered at the school on Brothersville Road to memorialize Miller about 9 a.m., and were still there about 1 p.m. A psychologist and guidance counselor were on site to provide grief counseling.

"I think the testament to her is that students are continuing to gather out here," Reaves said Thursday.

Next to her senior photo, a quote reads, "Live life like it's your last."

Hephzibah High senior Ikeyla Hughes will take Miller's words to heart, she said.

"I'm going to be a lot more careful," she said. "Texting can have a huge impact. This makes me see how serious it can be."

Staff Writer Adam Folk contributed to this article.

Comments (58) Add comment
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corgimom
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corgimom 05/27/10 - 05:50 am
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My deepest condolences to the

My deepest condolences to the family. How heartbreaking.

Dixieman
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Dixieman 05/27/10 - 06:24 am
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Tragic, a young life cut off

Tragic, a young life cut off too soon, too soon.

veggie-d
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veggie-d 05/27/10 - 06:39 am
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texting while driving will

texting while driving will kill you dead! in a society where little to no self control is instilled from an early age, where the boundaries between youth & adulthood are blurred, and where folks feel a need to be chatting/talking/etc. with someone at all times...sadly, this sort of thing will become increasingly common.

InChristLove
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InChristLove 05/27/10 - 06:46 am
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mpowel21, what goes across

mpowel21, what goes across your brain doesn't have to come out your mouth (or in this instance...printed online). My condolences to this young girls family. No one should have to bury their teenage daughter or son. So sad.

sdrwtcn
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sdrwtcn 05/27/10 - 06:56 am
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Very, Very Sad!

Very, Very Sad!

girlsmom30815
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girlsmom30815 05/27/10 - 07:07 am
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mpowel21 - there are no words

mpowel21 - there are no words to describe my first reaction to your comment. You have some nerve making statements such as this. A tragedy occurs and this is all you've got? Maybe we should pray for you after we have prayed for this family that woke up yesterday morning planning a future with their beautiful child / sister / grandchild and today they are planning her funeral. My heart aches for her family.

bettyboop
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bettyboop 05/27/10 - 07:12 am
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for mpowel who does not

for mpowel who does not appear able to read.....................""Bowen does not believe alcohol was a factor in the accident""

johnston.cliff
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johnston.cliff 05/27/10 - 07:23 am
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Most deaths in a car are the

Most deaths in a car are the result of inattention by the driver. How sad this child died in this way. How sad for her friends and family. Teen driving is a risk because of the decision making ability of teens.

nadps53jrt
0
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nadps53jrt 05/27/10 - 07:54 am
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For her to fly out of the

For her to fly out of the windshield she more then likly wasn't wearing her seat belt. Wish people would learn.
Hate to hear it.

ripjones
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ripjones 05/27/10 - 08:03 am
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My thoughts and prayers are

My thoughts and prayers are with her family. I know what my sister-in-law goes through every day, after she lost her son in an accident as well. Insensitive people, please shut the stupidity down.

cakewalk30904
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cakewalk30904 05/27/10 - 08:14 am
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I am so sorry for this

I am so sorry for this family's loss. My prayers will be with you.

csrareader
1287
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csrareader 05/27/10 - 08:27 am
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God Bless the family during

God Bless the family during this tragic time.

ddfowler
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ddfowler 05/27/10 - 08:37 am
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A loss of a love one is never

A loss of a love one is never easy...lets pray the prayer of strength for everyone who knew this young lady

redapples
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redapples 05/27/10 - 08:56 am
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What a tragic loss! Pray for

What a tragic loss! Pray for this family!!!!

sometimes
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sometimes 05/27/10 - 09:17 am
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R.I.P. Jewel My prayers are

R.I.P. Jewel My prayers are with your family. You were a bright, loving, sweet, smart, and dedicated young girl that is gone too soon. We miss you and love you very much...

hopefulinaugusta
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hopefulinaugusta 05/27/10 - 10:04 am
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First I want to extend my

First I want to extend my deepest condolences to this young ladies family. I cannot imagine your pain at this time. Next I'd like to say that people have forgotten the power of God. If she was burned and the cell phone was burned then they were in the car when it burst into flames. Maybe she was able with Gods grace to escape the car and had her phone open trying to call for help.

CobaltGeorge
154962
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CobaltGeorge 05/27/10 - 10:22 am
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The pain will live with you

The pain will live with you for the rest of your life, I know. May God help the family to live though it.

flipa
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flipa 05/27/10 - 10:29 am
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Texting is caused mostly when

Texting is caused mostly when folks spend their money on other things other than a good cell phone plan. Personally everyone who text me smokes cigarettes. The cost of those cigarettes should be redirected to a good cell phone plan so they don’t place their friends at risk by texting them. The only reason to text anyone in my mind is when you are sending them a picture. Other than that call them. If they are driving hang up, don’t make them ask and call them back when they are finished driving. This loss of this girl is THE most tragic thing i have read in a long time. It DID NOT have to happen. Hang Up & DRIVE!

Nat the Cat
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Nat the Cat 05/27/10 - 10:50 am
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I cannot believe this. We

I cannot believe this. We are so sorry!

What in the world did mpowel21 say? [In so many words]
I'm just getting here.

ohhsweetconcord
3
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ohhsweetconcord 05/27/10 - 12:11 pm
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What a terribly sad story.

What a terribly sad story.

Brad Owens
4285
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Brad Owens 05/27/10 - 02:05 pm
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Rest her soul. I am so sorry

Rest her soul. I am so sorry for her family and freinds. Sad, very sad.

Jillian
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Jillian 05/27/10 - 02:07 pm
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I think the same thing

I think the same thing happened to a girl from ARC a few years back...right after graduation. Such a needless death. Driving requires 100% attention of the driver. They should stress this much much more in driving courses for teens and make them mandatory for everyone. I support 10000% laws which ban texting and cell phone usage by any driver. It's a stupid chance to take, not just with your life, but with the lives of other innocent people who may be in your car or in another car on the highway.

SeeYa
13
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SeeYa 05/27/10 - 02:20 pm
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I'm praying and crying at the

I'm praying and crying at the same time.

SeeYa
13
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SeeYa 05/27/10 - 02:24 pm
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Praying and crying at the

Praying and crying at the same time.

Rolling Eyes
245
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Rolling Eyes 05/27/10 - 02:30 pm
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My most sincere condolences

My most sincere condolences to the family and friends. What a tragic loss.

texred
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texred 05/27/10 - 02:47 pm
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Condolences to the family,

Condolences to the family, you can really share the grief with them - having walked in their shoes you feel the pain with them. May the Lord Bless and strengthen them through this time.

Little Lamb
45278
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Little Lamb 05/27/10 - 03:05 pm
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The picture with the article

The picture with the article shows students embracing in front of Hephzibah High and the caption says the photo was taken Thursday. What in the world are they doing at school? School was over last Friday!

SCY385
3
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SCY385 05/27/10 - 03:11 pm
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My heart goes out to the

My heart goes out to the family. They will be in my prayers.

mystery30815
18
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mystery30815 05/27/10 - 03:27 pm
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Little Lamb, read the

Little Lamb, read the article, the students gathered there this morning after hearing of the accident.

Just My Opinion
5454
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Just My Opinion 05/27/10 - 03:55 pm
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You know, it's hard for the

You know, it's hard for the family and friends to think about this right now, but one day they may take comfort in the knowledge that this event may have caused many, many young people to stop texting while driving. Well, not just young people, anyone who reads or hears about this tragedy should think twice before texting or talking on their cellphones while driving. I am so very sorry for this little girl, her family, and her friends.

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