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Family struggling with grief after fatal accident in Landis

By Kathy Chaffin and Scott Jenkins

Salisbury Post

Leeanna Newman loved being a mother.

She and her husband, Brad, were excited about having their second child, a sister for 21-month-old Mallory, Leeanna’s sister, Tiea LeMasters, said Wednesday.

The young family had recently settled into a house on China Grove Road. Brad had just started a new job, and Leeanna was a stay-at-home mom. It’s what she wanted to be, her sister said.

“They were getting ready and planning baby showers and stuff,” LeMasters said. “She was just committed to raising Mallory and getting ready for this new baby and that’s what her whole life was about right now.”

Her life was cut tragically short Tuesday. Leeanna, only 20, died after a speeding Jeep driven by Rigo Martinez crossed into her lane on South Main Street in Landis and crashed head-on into the Saturn she was driving.

Leeanna was eight months pregnant. The unborn baby girl, whom LeMasters said the couple had planned to name Bianca Cheyenne, died after doctors at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte performed an emergency Caesarean section trying to save her.

Miraculously, Mallory Faith, the Newmans’ toddler who was secured in a child safety seat, suffered only minor injuries. On Wednesday, she was back with her father, who was “not doing good at all,” LeMasters said.

Neither was Leeanna’s mother, Bobbie Easley. At her home on Cypress Lane with LeMasters and other relatives Wednesday, Easley could barely speak about Leeanna.

“She was just a terrific daughter,” she said.

Leeanna had left her mother’s house on Cypress Lane in southwestern Rowan County shortly before the wreck happened at 5:15 p.m., LeMasters said. She was on her way to pick up Brad at the home of her aunt and uncle, Charlotte and Eric Hardin, in Kannapolis.

Brad rode to work with Eric at Quality Sprinkler in Charlotte, which installs sprinkler systems.

The young couple had moved back to Rowan County in December after living in Michigan for about two years.

Raised in Kannapolis, where her father, Anthony Codespot, still lives, Leeanna attended A.L. Brown High School and finished her education at home, LeMasters said. She would have been 21 in March.

“She was a good person, and I loved her,” LeMasters said.

Rena and Bobby Fox were at their home on Turner Street in Landis Tuesday evening when they saw the television coverage of the horrific crash.

They never dreamed their granddaughter was involved. “We didn’t recognize her car because it was so torn up,” Rena said.

Not long after that, Bobby’s Sunday school teacher called to see how he was doing. Bobby has prostate cancer and is awaiting radiation treatment.

The phone beeped during the conversation, indicating that someone else was trying to call, so Rena dialed *69 when she hung up to see who it was. When the number came up as unavailable, Rena called her daughter, Bobbie Easley, because her number never shows up on the phone.

It was then that she realized something horrible had happened. “She was crying real bad,” she said, “and she couldn’t talk.”

Rena then called her other daughter, Charlotte Hardin, who told her about Leeanna and Mallory being in the accident. “After I found out about it, I went all to pieces,” Rena said.

Leeanna and Mallory had visited Rena and Bobby earlier Tuesday afternoon. Rena gave her granddaughter a quilt she had made for her and Brad. “It was light green and blue and white and the back side of it was solid white,” she said.

Leeanna loved the quilt, Rena said, and so did Mallory. “She said, ‘It’s not yours, Mama. It’s mine.’ ”

Rena said she and her husband are going to go by the auto body shop that picked up Leeanna’s car and see if the quilt’s inside. “I’m going to get it and give it to her husband,” she said.

During the two hours Leeanna and Mallory were at her house, Rena said Mallory crawled up on the couch beside her mother, who was checking the want ads in the newspaper to see what houses were for sale. “They were wanting to buy a house,” she said.

Mallory wanted to look at the newspaper, too, her great-grandmother said, so she pulled out an inside section with a valentine on front and gave it to her.

“She took it apart,” she said, “and she and I were fighting with each other. I’d hit mine toward her, and she’d just laugh.”

Leeanna and Mallory left the Fox home at about 4 p.m. to go by her mother’s house before she went to pick up her husband.

Before they left, Rena said Leeanna hugged and kissed her like she always did and told her that she loved her. “I told her I loved her, too,” she said.

Those would be her last words to her granddaughter.

“She was a good person,” Rena said. “You wouldn’t want no one as good as she was. If she could do something for you, she would.”

Charlotte Hardin described her niece as fun and outgoing, full of life and loveable. “I was around Leeanna a whole, whole lot when she was a little girl growing up,” she said, “and ever since, she’s always come to see her Aunt Charlotte.”

Mallory looks just like her mother did when she was her age, she said.

Rena’s husband is holding up pretty good, she said, “but when he starts talking about it, he starts crying.”

Though she hasn’t seen Mallory since the accident, she said family members have told her that she’s clinging to her father. “She won’t let him go,” she said.

Rena, who answers her phone, “Hello. Jesus loves you,” said the good Lord will help her family through this tragedy. “He’s the only one that can,” she said.

Relatives have established a fund for Mallory, to help with her future and to help her father care for her, LeMasters said. Anyone who wants to can give to the Mallory Faith Newman Trust Fund at Wachovia Bank.

Funeral services for Leeanna Newman and her baby are incomplete. Whitley’s Funeral Home in Kannapolis is in charge of arrangements.

Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com and Scott Jenkins at 704-797-4248 or sjenkins@salisburypost.com.

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