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Mother mourns 5-year-old daughter killed by accused drunk driver
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Mother mourns 5-year-old daughter killed by accused drunk driver

  • PublishedJune 15, 2024


Deputies said Madeline Nichols was killed in a crash Friday. A driver faces several DUI charges.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Madeline Nichols of Lake Wales was excited to start kindergarten in the fall. 

At just 5 years old, her mother Jacqueline Nichols said she touched the lives of those around her. 

She loved getting ice cream with her grandfather and made friends everywhere she went. Described as the happiest child ever with sass and brains, her mother said she had dreams of becoming a veterinarian someday.

“That’s all she ever talked about,” her mother recalls.


Those dreams were shattered Friday just past midnight when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said a driver, above the legal blood alcohol level, crashed head-on with Jacqueline Nichols’ car.

Madeline was killed on impact, deputies said. 

RELATED: Deputies: Man arrested on DUI charges after crash that killed child, seriously injured 2

I just hope she knows how much she was loved and cared for, and that we will miss her greatly,” Jacqueline said. “I wish I could hug and hold her and bring her home, but it’s not possible, because of someone’s bad decision.”

Speaking with 10 Tampa Bay just minutes after being released from Lakeland Regional Health, Jacqueline Nichols said she wants to share her daughter’s story to keep her memory alive.

She said doesn’t remember the crash. She only found out her daughter was killed when she woke up at the hospital the next day. 

I’m going to get home and see all her stuff everywhere, and I don’t know what to do,” she said. 

Inside Jacqueline Nichols’ Dodge caravan was also Madeline’s father Justin Jones. He is still recovering in the hospital and is expected to undergo spinal surgery.


With bruises all over her body, Jacqueline Nichols shared that Madeline also leaves behind her two older siblings. Both of them are struggling to cope and understand why this happened.

“They’re 13 and 10. They’ve never dealt with this. They shouldn’t have to,” she said. 


Deputies said they arrested 24-year-old Robert Harrison after he crashed his Ford F-350 into Jacqueline Nichols’ Dodge Caravan on 42nd Street NW in Auburndale. He faces several DUI charges including DUI manslaughter.

Sheriff Grady Judd addressed the fatal crash last week, adding that Madeline was in a proper seatbelt.

“This baby’s life has been snuffed out and that’s totally unacceptable,” Judd said. 

Jacqueline Nichols said the family had just left Taco Bell, one of Madeline’s favorite places, after picking up Jones. 

Now, she hopes others remember to take precautions before drinking and driving such as calling an Uber or Lyft. 

“Nobody’s life has to end like hers,” she said. 

A GoFundMe was created by her family to help with funeral and medical expenses.



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johndweiner@gmail.com

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