Father held on $1M bond in I-94 death of daughter

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
DeSandra Thomas

Detroit — A 47-year-old Detroit man was arraigned over the weekend in the death of his 7-year-old daughter, who was struck by a car while trying to cross a freeway to get help after police said he crashed his van after driving drunk.

Wilburt Dion Thomas was arraigned Saturday in 34th District Court in Romulus on charges including second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree child abuse and operating under the influence. 

He was held on a $1 million bond/ 10 percent cash surety, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

Authorities said Thomas had his daughter with him while allegedly driving a stolen van on Interstate 94 near Inkster just before 2 a.m. on July 15 while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana.

The van crashed  into a car  on the shoulder of the road and struck a fence.

DeSandra Thomas left the van after the crash and was texting police to try to get help, according to Michigan State Police.

Thinking her father was dead, she grabbed her backpack, climbed over a fence that the vehicle had struck and started walking from the scene near I-94 and Merriman. She was texting 911 when she was killed by a vehicle driven by a woman on eastbound I-94 about 3:30 a.m., police said.

The woman contacted police. Thomas was taken to the local hospital and released. 

”The confluence of events in this case caused the untimely death of the defendant’s young daughter," said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. "The alleged actions of the father included driving a stolen car while highly intoxicated, having open intoxicants and marijuana in the car, crashing into a disabled car, and allowing his daughter to leave the car and walk alone across the highway to her death. This is a tragic and devastating case."

A GoFundMe fundraiser to bury DeSandra raised $15,000. 

"DeSandra was a hero and at such a tender age, she was selfless," said the GoFundMe page. "She didn't care about herself, she was racing against time to save her father as anyone with a heart of gold would have. In this difficult (time) we, the family, ask for anything that can help put this beautiful baby to rest properly."

Thomas was arrested Friday by the Romulus Police Department. 

The girl’s mother, Sandria Burts, had said she hoped DeSandra’s father was not charged. She said losing their daughter was “torture enough.”

Thomas’ probable-cause conference is scheduled for Aug. 22 and a preliminary examination is scheduled on Aug. 29.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_