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Two killed in 1-car wreck

The two cousins were inseparable, their relatives say. But the driver, 15, shouldn't have been on the road.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 16, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- They grew up together and they died together.

That's what family members said of two Brooksville cousins killed in a car accident Monday after one of them, a 15-year-old girl who had a restricted license and should not have been driving, swerved off a curved section of Cedar Lane in Brooksville about 1 a.m. and slammed into an oak tree.

The teen, Danea Watts, and her cousin, Petitte "T-shelle" Badger, 26, were dead at the scene, a Florida Highway Patrol report said.

"If you look at your hand -- the front of your hand and the back of your hand -- that's how close they were," Lula Johnson, Badger's mother, said of the cousins. "They were always together."

A third passenger and their friend, Kenya Tucker, 20, of Brooksville, also was in the car during the accident. Tucker was in fair condition at Bayfront Medical Center on Monday evening. Family members of the cousins said Tucker had crawled from the wreckage for help.

* * *

Family members said they were not sure what the three friends were doing out so late. According to state driving rules, a 15-year-old may drive only between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. with a person 21 or older in the passenger seat.

Charlotte Watts, Danea's aunt, said the teen had taken her grandmother's car without anyone's knowledge.

"She took the car and nobody knew she was gone," she said. "I don't know anything else."

Some guessed that the three friends were out visiting other friends and chatting.

"There's not much to do in Brooksville but ride," Johnson said.

* * *

Florida Highway Patrol officials would not release further details of how the crash happened, including the car's speed, pending further investigation. A report indicated that Watts, 729 Shayne St., was not wearing her seat belt. Neither was Badger, 216 Zoller St. The report did not state whether Tucker, 719 Hale Ave., was wearing a seat belt.

Family members remembered Watts as an outgoing young girl who, although she recently withdrew from Central High School, planned to go to night school and get her high school equivalency certificate. She was one week away from earning her first paycheck at Brooksville Nursing Manor, where she prepared food for residents.

"She loved to cook," said her aunt, Charlotte Watts.

Her father, Willie Watts, described Danea as a "lovable" person with a youthful smile.

"She was a sweetheart. She just started living," he said. "She was only 15."

Badger, mother of a 4-year-old girl, was much older than Danea, but still was her close friend. Family friend May Pinkney said Badger often took people under her wing and watched out for them, a byproduct of her job as a dietitian at Brooksville Regional Medical Center, where she made patients feel comfortable and loved.

"She took her job to heart," Pinkney said. "It wasn't just a job; it was a way of showing she cared."

Badger's mother and sister will raise her daughter, Jaleyna, they said.

Friends said that having the baby had changed Badger, who used to like to go out at night.

"When she had the baby, she slowed down and started to concentrate on her child," said Badger's best friend, Lorena Wilson. "They were like two peas in a pod."

Seeing the little girl without her mother makes Tangala Badger, Petitte Badger's sister, appreciate her family more, she said.

"I hope our family will take the hint that we need to spend more time together, because we don't know what day will be our last," she said.

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