The lawyer for Gabriel Fordham (right) said he was behind the wheel of the car that struck 9-year-old LaDerihanna Holmes, but said he was the victim of a carjacking before the crash.
Photo: Screenshot via surveillance video / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Screenshot via surveillance video / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

Family of girl struck in front yard faces driver in court

The mother of the young girl hit by a car while playing in her yard two weeks ago took the stand in a DeKalb County courtroom Monday with a simple message for the man accused of hitting the 9-year-old: I don’t believe you.

Gabriel Jabri Fordham said he was the victim of an armed carjacking before flying into the yard, where 9-year-old LaDerihanna Holmes played outside with a friend. Holmes was seriously injured in the crash after she was pinned between the car and what was left of the home’s exterior.

Charlette Bolton, the girl’s mother, looked directly at Fordham during Monday’s preliminary hearing and told him, “I don't believe, not one time, that you were carjacked.”

Police have not confirmed whether a carjacking took place, and said the investigation is still ongoing.

After hearing testimony from the victim’s mother, the suspect’s mother, his girlfriend and a DeKalb police detective, DeKalb County Magistrate Judge Nora Polk decided there was probable cause to move forward with the charges against Fordham. She also denied to release him on bond.

The lawyer for Gabriel Fordham (right) said he was behind the wheel of the car that struck 9-year-old LaDerihanna Holmes, but said he was the victim of a carjacking before the crash.
Photo: Screenshot via surveillance video / DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

“My daughter is afraid of this man. My daughter has seen his picture, and I’m afraid as well,” Bolton said.

More details emerged Monday about the wreck, including that beer bottles were found in the car, and shots were fired at the scene minutes after the crash.

Prosecutors said Fordham, 28, was behind the wheel when his car flew into the yard on March 29, striking 9-year-old LaDerihanna Holmes while she played with a friend outside. Holmes was critically injured in the crash and has begun rehab.

Fordham’s attorneys, however, said he was the victim of an armed carjacking and blacked out before crashing the car into the home on Cherokee Valley Drive near Lithonia.

Speaking out for the first time since the crash, Fordham’s girlfriend Diamond Daugherty — the owner of the car he was driving — said he called her immediately after the crash to tell her what happened. He said “he was robbed” and had been hit, Daugherty said.


READ PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

» Driver who hit girl in DeKalb says he was carjacked

» Driver accused of hitting girls in front yard arrested

» Family begs for justice after car hits girl, 9, in yard


Fordham is charged with failure to maintain lane, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving, hit-and-run, and serious injury by vehicle. The last charge is a felony.

His attorneys said the passenger in the car, who ran away from yard after the crash, was the carjacker. DeKalb police crash Detective Connie Curtis said the identity of that person is unknown and the investigation is still ongoing.

Beer bottles were found in the Ford Fusion, Curtis said, but test results on them have not come back.

“After exiting the vehicle, he doesn’t try to render aid, he doesn’t try to call the police,” she said. “He doesn’t seem concerned with the victim who was on the ground. He was more concerned about finding his property in the vehicle.”

One of Fordham's attorneys, Ryan Williams, said Fordham was looking for his phone in order to call police.

He didn’t call police after leaving the yard because “he didn't have his cell phone. And contact was made by his attorneys,” said attorney Gerald Griggs, another member of Fordham’s legal team.

Investigators also knew how to get in touch with Fordham after the crash because they had made contact with his girlfriend, Griggs said.

Lawyers Michael Roth (left) and Chris Stewart with LaDerihanna Holmes' parents Charlette Bolton and Derryl Holmes at a press conference two weeks ago, days after the girl was struck by a car in her front yard. (Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM)
Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

The wreck was captured on the Holmes’ home surveillance system; the video went viral in the days after the crash.

At the hearing, the lawyers discussed whether Fordham willingly left the scene after the crash. In the video, he is seen getting out of the car and speaking to others at the scene before disappearing out of frame.

Williams said Fordham felt threatened by people at the scene, including the victim’s older brother, who brought a gun into the yard. The brother is seen on the video holding the firearm in his left hand, but he does not point it at anyone directly.

After Fordham goes out of view of the surveillance video, and after the girl was taken to the hospital, the brother fired shots into the air, Curtis said.

LaDerihanna Holmes has been recovering in the hospital, and recently received a new pink wheelchair. (Photo: Stewart Trial Attorneys)
Photo: Stewart Trial Attorneys

Several members of Fordham’s family attended the hearing. His mom Venus Morgan said Fordham would not be a flight risk if let out on bond.

According to court records, Fordham was previously convicted on another felony. Fordham was released from Telfair State Prison on April 2, 2018, after serving about six years on aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records.

Fordham pleaded guilty after an indictment alleged that he shot a man in the leg with a rifle on Jan. 8, 2012, according to DeKalb court records. He also pleaded guilty to two forgery charges stemming from offenses in 2009.

The judge cited those prior charges, as well as some probation violations, in deciding not to grant bond.

A 28-year-old Lithonia man, Gabriel Fordham, turned himself in on charges that he struck LaDerihanna Holmes, 9, with his car. His attorney say he felt threatened by the girl’s family members in the yard. In surveillance video, a person walks outside of the home minutes after the crash holding what appears to be a handgun in his left hand.

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