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Teenage driver indicted in death of Richmond teen

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--It’s been five months since a deadly car crash in South Richmond and Monday CBS 6 News learned of a new development in the case.

The crash happened at Cherokee and Old Westham Roads back in June and Huguenot High School student Antonio Shands died at the scene.

Shands was riding in a car full of teens that day when Richmond police say the driver of the Chevy Malibu blew through a stop sign at the intersection. Neighbors, passengers in the car and the teen driver’s mom all say the sign was partially covered by an overgrown tree.

Monday, a Richmond Grand Jury indicted the driver of the car, also a teenager from Huguenot High.

CBS 6 News spoke exclusively with that teen’s mom. She says it’s been a heart wrenching, painful and overwhelming ordeal.

“He said he didn’t see the stop sign and that the stop sign was blocked by a tree,” she said (CBS 6 is not naming names since her son is a minor). “I just want to reach out to the families and say I’m so sorry.”

She said they don’t have the family’s phone number wish they could “plead to them for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.”

She tells us since the crash she’s had Shands on her mind every day, as well as the other passengers in the car who survived but were critically injured.

She said that as a mother of four she can completely emphathize with Shands’ family.

“I do really think about him every day and every night,” she said. “We are so sorry this happened.”

“It was an accident,” she explained.

As for her son’s indictment on one count of reckless driving, she says it’s a devastating blow. Already, the mom adds that her heart is weighed down by the death of her son’s friend and the traumatic experience all of the teenagers went through that day.

The mom—whose family is from West Africa--doesn’t know how she’ll get through this legal process emotionally or financially. She says she’s the breadwinner in their family and her husband is out of work. 

She tells CBS 6 News she has one child in college, two in high school and a three-year-old baby at home.  She also says she doesn’t know where to turn for legal guidance, or where to get the money for legal fees.

CBS 6 News legal analyst Todd Stone tells us why he thinks the teen faced a misdemeanor charge. Stone says to charge him with a felony, prosecutors would have had to prove a high degree of negligence.

He says the prosecutors would have to show that the teen was negligent and that the punishment would not be based on the fact that someone died in the crash, but rather it would be based on the degree of negligence shown by the teen driver.

Stone says the teen’s defense could likely argue there was no negligence because of the tree situation. He says if trees were partially blocking the stop sign at the intersection and the teen driver couldn’t see that, then that’s a crucial element in this case.

CBS 6 News contacted the mother of Antonio Shands about the indictment and she declined to comment.

We also spoke to a relative of another passenger who was in the car. She tells us her family has no ill feelings toward the driver and says all of the teens have just gone through too much.

If convicted, the teen driver could face up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to 2,500 dollars.

Stay with CBS 6 News for the latest on this story.