Teen Driver Charged as Adult in Fatal Wreck

Mitchell in court.
Mitchell in court.

A traffic accident that happened one month ago today has forever changed the life of one child and ended the life of another. Police say Donald Mitchell, 13, caused the accident that killed four-year-old Janeyah Mitchell (no relation).

Today, Mitchell had his preliminary hearing. He is being charged as an adult for felony murder. Today a judge heard his case, and we learned more about what happened the night of the accident.

Mitchell entered the courtroom today, barely tall enough to see over the podium. Investigators testified he was driving a stolen car around 6pm on November 21. He ran the stop sign at the intersection of East Gwinnett and Paulsen and crashed into a red car.

There were five people in that car--four-year-old Janeya died from her injuries the next day. The investigator talked with a witness who saw Donald Mitchell. "She said he took off running, running north on Paulsen," Cpl. Lamar McCoy testified.

Mitchell told police he didn't do it. "I asked him, Donald, can you tell me where you were this evening?" said McCoy. "He informed me he was home all evening."

But police found his fingerprints in the stolen car, on the driver's side.

Mitchell's lawyer focused his attention not on Mitchell, but on where and how Janeya was sitting at the time of the crash.

At first police told us the four-year-old was not wearing a seatbelt, but in court today the investigators testified she was wearing a seatbelt, saying it seriously injured her, but it was the impact from the airbag that killed her.

Mitchell's attorney pointed out she wasn't in the backseat or in a booster seat like Georgia law requires.

But Judge Lawrence Dillon ruled there was enough evidence to send the case to the grand jury, and Donald Mitchell is still facing the charges as an adult.

A grand jury will hear the case sometime in the next three months. Mitchell's attorney said he is going to file a motion to move the case back to juvenile court.

Reported by: Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com