$1M bond for Atmore woman after indictment for 2021 child’s death
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
An Atmore woman, involved in a violent and fatal Thanksgiving Eve 2021 car crash on U.S. 31, has been indicted and arrested on a charge of murder in the death of a young passenger who was killed in the crash.
The indictment against Wandra Theresa Gibson, 41, was handed up October 28 by a county grand jury. Gibson reportedly surrendered to the county sheriff’s office November 9 and was processed into the Escambia County Detention Center.
She remained in the county facility, under bond of $1 million, early Tuesday, November 22, charged with one count each of reckless murder, first-degree assault and aggravated speeding. She is also charged with two counts of failure to have a child properly restrained.
Alabama Criminal Code, Section 13A-6-2 allows for the murder charge when, “under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life, (a person) recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to a person other than himself or herself, and thereby causes the death of another person.”
Reckless murder, known in many states as negligent vehicular homicide, is a Class C felony that carries a possible prison term of 1-10 years upon conviction.
According to the indictment, Gibson was traveling 35 mph over the speed limit in a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox around 4 p.m. on November 24, 2021, when she attempted to pass a 1986 Freightliner rig about three miles west of Atmore. The Equinox struck a trailer loaded with peanut hay that was being pulled by the semi and landed on its passenger side in the roadway.
Although no drug charges were lodged against her, the indictment states that Gibson “did recklessly engage in conduct which manifested extreme difference to human life … by operation of a motor vehicle at a high rate of speed while under the influence of a controlled substance … a better description of which to the Grand Jury is otherwise unknown.”
Gibson and her daughter Mallory, then 9 years old, were critically injured in the crash, which caused the death of 10-year-old Kendall Watkins, a fifth-grade student at Escambia County Middle School. Mallory has undergone several surgical procedures but reportedly remains partially paralyzed.
The indictment’s final two counts arose from Gibson’s failure to have the two minor children wear a safety restraint.
According to the indictment, Alabama State Troopers determined that Gibson was “driving ninety miles per hour in a fifty-five miles per hour zone.” Official reports indicate that she almost hit a vehicle driven by a Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department firefighter just prior to the crash.
Rescue personnel from NVFD, Atmore Fire Department and Perdido Volunteer Fire Department had to cut the compact SUV’s roof and frame away to get to the occupants. Gibson and her daughter were then loaded into separate medical evacuation helicopters and flown to an area trauma center.
A section of U.S. 31 was closed to traffic for more than four hours as rescue personnel extricated the victims, state troopers conducted their investigation and tow truck drivers removed the damaged vehicles.