'I never got to ... kiss her again': Mother mourns wrong-way crash victim
The woman who was killed in a wrong-way crash on M-14 on Saturday grew up in Detroit and was on her way to visit her mother with her family for Memorial Day weekend.
But Jennifer Moore, the 46-year-old wife of University of Wisconsin assistant basketball coach Howard Moore, never made it. Neither did the couple's 9-year-old daughter, Jaidyn, or her dad or brother. A wrong-way driver struck their vehicle in Washtenaw County en route to Vera Barnes' home in Southfield.
Jaidyn died at the scene. Jennifer Moore was taken off life support on Saturday.
"I never got to hug and kiss her again," said Barnes of her only child.
Howard Moore, 46, and the couple's son, Jerell, 13, both suffered injuries but are expected to recover, the University of Wisconsin said in a statement Sunday.
Barnes said the couple, who lived outside of Madison, Wisconsin, were traveling with their children and had made a stop in Chicago to visit Howard Moore's family. They left late at night to beat early-morning traffic, which they expected to be heavy because of the holiday weekend.
But the journey ended Saturday around 2 a.m. when a vehicle traveling the wrong way on M-14 struck the family's vehicle on Saturday.
State police identified the wrong-way driver as Samantha Winchester, 23, of Ann Arbor. Winchester, a recent University of Michigan graduate, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"I lost two — a daughter and a granddaughter," said Barnes. "But I'm blessed to still have my grandson and my son-in-law."
Moore was active in her community, often working to help others. On her Facebook page, she asked people to contribute to the homeless during the cold winter months. She also created a baby registry and asked her friends to help surprise a pregnant woman she'd met and couldn't afford to buy things for the baby.
"This young lady is one of the sweetest people I have met here in Madison and I want to do something special for her," Moore wrote in November. "She is having a baby that is due on Jan 4th. She works 2 jobs and braids hair. She won’t ask for anything ever. She currently can’t afford all the things she needs for the baby right so I created a baby registry at Target. Nothing outrageous just necessities for the baby."
She presented the woman with a baby swing, bassinet, diapers and other gifts just before Christmas.
A Detroit friend of Jennifer Moore remembered her kindness and sense of humor.
"To know her, I know it’s cliché, but to know her was to love her," said Dana Teamor, a Detroit author and minister.
The two women met in kindergarten and have been friends ever since.
"She kept you laughing, and her laugh was a hearty, from-the-soul laugh. If you were down at all, it would take her a moment and you’d be up."
Teamor said Jennifer was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Lutheran High School West in 1991. She said they kept up by texting and Jennifer would say what a good man Howard is.
"They had a beautiful marriage. They’ve been together since college, Teamor said. "Wherever they’d go (with his job), she’d make it a home, not a house. She was a superstar. He had the big name, but she was the superstar. She would go on about how well he treated her and the kids. I can’t imagine what he’s going through and what their son is going through."
Moore attended the University of Wisconsin for two years, and met Howard Moore there. She returned to Detroit and earned her bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, her mother said. She worked for TRW Automotive before earning her master's degree in energy engineering from University of Illinois-Chicago. She then married in 2003 and began raising her two children in Wisconsin.
She was very outgoing and loved family and had lots of friends," he mother said.
The University of Wisconsin athletic department issued a statement Sunday mourning the family's loss.
“There are no words to describe how devastated we are for Howard and his family,” head coach Greg Gard said in the statement. “Our basketball program is an extremely close family and we are all grieving for the Moore and Barnes families."
Gard said the family's "positivity and energy lift up those around them. We will miss Jen and Jaidyn dearly and we will put our arms around Howard and Jerell and the entire family, giving them love and support during this unspeakable time.”
Moore, a Wisconsin alum, rejoined the men's basketball program in December 2015 for his second stint as an assistant coach for the Badgers, according to his team bio. He served his ninth season this year on the Wisconsin bench under Gard.
“I’ve known Howard ever since he was a student-athlete at Wisconsin and gotten to know his wonderful family through the years,” director of athletics Barry Alvarez said in the statement.
“He has always been an incredible representative of our athletic department and a positive influence on everyone around him. We are truly heart-broken for his family and will be doing everything possible to help him through this tragic time. Our prayers, love and support go out to the Moore and Barnes family.”
The Brighton Post also offered its "heartfelt condolences to the entire UW Badger family during this extremely difficult time" in a tweet Sunday morning.
Her Facebook page said Winchester, who is from Saline and lived in Ann Arbor, also worked at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. UM spokeswoman Kara Gavin said Winchester began working at the university health system "near the end of April" as a patient service assistant in the post-surgery area of the operating room for Michigan Medicine.
Michigan State Police Brighton Post spokesman Lt. Darren Green said they’re still searching for answers. Winchester was pronounced dead at the scene and toxicology reports are pending, police said earlier.
“She was the lone occupant in the vehicle and was pronounced dead at the scene,” said Lt. Green. “We don’t know why she was travelling the wrong way, or how long she had been travelling the wrong way. Based on the toxicology reports and autopsy, pieces of the puzzle may come together to answer those questions. But then again, we may never know.”
Angelique S. Chengelis contributed to this report.