Man given maximum sentence for killing 9-year-old in drunken rear-end crash in Gretna

Wendell Lachney pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 30 years in prison...
Wendell Lachney pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for drunkenly rear-ending Abigail Douglas' family vehicle, killing the 9-year-old.(JPSO/Family)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 10:41 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 3:58 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Wendell Lachney, accused of killing 9-year-old Abigail Douglas in a drunken crash, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in Jefferson Parish court on Tuesday (Sept. 20) and was sentenced to the maximum of 30 years in prison.

Lachney, 58, will also serve five years probation for negligent injuring.

Wendell Lachney, 48
Wendell Lachney, 48(LSP)

Douglas was killed on Oct. 22, 2021, when Lachney slammed into the back of her family’s vehicle on Belle Chasse Highway near its intersection with Lapalco Boulevard in Gretna. District Attorney Paul Connick says Lachney had been drinking whiskey and smoking marijuana hours before he drove into the minivan. In his car, Louisiana State Police troopers found an opened bottle of whiskey, wine, a cup of beer, marijuana, and a pipe he used to smoke the marijuana.

Douglas’ mother testified in court, recalling being stopped at a red light when she saw Lachney closing in from behind and then slam into her minivan.

“I watched strangers performing CPR on my 9-year-old on the cold cement road,” she said. “I fell to my knees as I grabbed a man by his legs and begged him to save my daughter. I screamed to God and to the helpers to kill me instead. Take me, so my daughter can live. I prayed. I begged. I bartered with my soul. Did you hear my screams that night, Wendell?”

Connick says at the time that his blood was drawn, more than two-and-a-half hours after the crash, Lachney’s blood-alcohol content was .22% or more than double the .08% legal limit to drive under Louisiana law. Lachney was driving upwards of 60 mph when he drove into the rear of the minivan, Connick says.

Lachney had two prior DWI convictions.

9-year-old killed in fatal crash
9-year-old killed in fatal crash(wvue)

Police said the young girl was wearing a seatbelt but was seriously injured and died two days later.

Douglas’ loved ones called her a “bubbly and spirited” stand-out cheer talent.

“It’s unfathomable, no parent should have to go through this over a senseless act,” a family friend, Priscilla West, said.

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