Auburndale family mourns 5-year-old killed in drunk-driving crash: "She will be remembered"

An Auburndale family is mourning the loss of a five-year-old girl who deputies say was killed by a drunk driver.

The crash happened just after midnight last Friday on 42nd Street Northwest, south of SR 544.

Madeline Nichols was preparing for kindergarten, but instead of choosing a backpack for her, her family is now choosing an urn.


"I got the park behind me where we used to play, but now she's across the street at the funeral home," said David Nichols, Madeline's Grandpa.

Madeline, her mother, Jacqueline Nichols and her boyfriend, Justin Jones, were on their way home when they were struck head-on by Robert Harrison, 24, of Bartow.

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Investigators say Harrison was drunk behind the wheel of his truck heading north on 42nd Street when he swerved into the path of an oncoming van.

Harrison's blood alcohol level was about one-and-a-half times the legal limit, according to deputies.


Pictured: Robert Harrison

"We will do everything we can do to send him to prison for a very, very long time," said Sheriff Grady Judd during a news conference Friday. "Because of his stupidness of drinking and driving, then this baby's life's been snuffed out. That's totally unacceptable."

Nichols and Jones were taken to the hospital where they're still recovering from serious injuries including head trauma.

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David says his granddaughter loved playing outside, diving into the water any chance she got, and eating her favorite-- ice cream.


Pictured: Madeline Nichols

They shared a bond he will never allow to be broken.

"She enjoyed life. She enjoyed doing sand castles on the lake where I live," said Nichols. "I have pictures on my walls where she painted stuff. Those are staying forever. She will be remembered. She will be remembered by all."

Madeline leaves behind two older siblings -- a brother and a sister.

Harrison is charged with DUI manslaughter and driving under the influence. He's being held on no bond and is set to appear again in court next month.

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