Drag racing charges make tragedy worse for families, friends

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It was the type of tragedy that rips apart families and friends: two teenage boys killed in October when the car they were riding in rolled over several times, ejecting five people.

The pain of the incident returned to the forefront last week when police charged the drivers of that car and another with involuntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide for allegedly drag racing along Bigelow Boulevard before the accident.

Killed were David Dixon, 17, of Brookline, and Derik Edmunds, 16, of Homewood. They and the passengers in both cars were members of the Nego Gato Music and Dance Ensemble, a performance troupe that had appeared earlier Oct. 9 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.

Five months later, the events weigh heavily on Mr. Dixon's parents, Raymond Dixon Sr. and his wife, Elder Priscilla Dixon, pastor of God's Re-Creation Christian Center in Wilkinsburg. Nowadays when they're not weeping over their loss, they're praying, he said.

"There isn't day that goes by that we're not struggling by missing David," Mr. Dixon said last week. "He was a special child. He loved everybody, even at 17 years old. I miss all that."

As his heart is torn, so, too, is the relationship the Dixons have with the family of Shamiah F. Gilbert. The Hill District woman was a teacher for the dance troupe and one of the two drivers involved in the alleged drag race. David, her friend since childhood, was one of four passengers in her vehicle.

Witnesses said Ms. Gilbert, 20, and Amece Worthy, 21, of Garfield, were transporting performers and some of their equipment to their Uptown studio after the show. At a traffic light at the Bloomfield Bridge on Bigelow Boulevard, witnesses said, the two drivers decided to race toward Downtown.

At one point near Curto Park, Ms. Gilbert lost control of her car. It careened into the center guide rail and rolled several times, spewing its occupants as it flipped.

David and Derik both died of head injuries.

Investigators said none of the occupants of the vehicles had been drinking or ingesting drugs. None have criminal records.

"That's what is a shame," said Todd J. Hollis, Ms. Gilbert's defense attorney. "This thing happened to all good people."

The two drivers are awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges tentatively set for April 12.

At that time, two of their friends, Anthony Stevens and Matthew Salihy who survived the crash, may be called to testify against the women.

"This has nothing to do with friendships," Mr. Dixon said. "It affected us a little bit as far as the relationships, but we don't hate anybody.

"The only difference is that we want to see some justice served for my son," he continued. "You can't just go around and do things and just get away with stuff."

David was the youngest of the Dixons' children. He and Ms. Gilbert grew up in the church together as friends. To police, she described David as her boyfriend, though David's dad said his son was not formally dating anyone.

David was a drummer in the troupe. Derik was a dancer. Anthony Stevens also plays the drums, having learned the basics from David.

On the morning of the performance, the Dixon family had participated in an emotional service at their church. During the service, Mr. Dixon said, David was spirit-led, standing and praising God as he wept joyfully.

That evening, David pleaded with an older sister to give him a ride to the theater. Once there, he led the group in prayer before they went on stage.

A couple of hours later, Ms. Gilbert's mother, Faye Cosby, telephoned the Dixons because there had been an accident and they could not find David.

The impact and the tumbling car had flung him over the hillside.

Before the Dixons got to the scene, Mr. Dixon said that he called his son's cell phone getting only his standard message: "This is David. I can't take your call right now. Please leave a message."

He closed the message with, "If this is mom or dad, I love y'all."

At the scene, Elder Dixon immediately began to pray.

The two of them still call their son's cell phone just to hear his voice.

The pain commenced for Mr. Dixon a while later when he identified his son's remains at the Allegheny County morgue.

"Every time I see a picture of David, it's hard. I shed lots of tears just hearing his name," he said.

Many of the family's photos have been removed from display because of the grief conjured by David's likeness.

Through their attorneys, Mr. Hollis for Ms. Gilbert and Michael D. Foglia for Ms. Worthy, the women have denied that they were racing before the wreck.

Mr. Dixon said he is not yet ready to begin forgiving their friends.

"In my whole heart, I felt there were some lies in it," he said. "I can't fully forgive nobody until the truth comes out, the whole truth."

Correction/Clarification: (Published Mar. 29, 2006) Derik Edmunds, 16, of Homewood, and David Dixon, 17, of Brookline, were killed Oct. 9 when they car in which they were passengers crashed on Bigelow Boulevard, leading to homicide charges against the two women drivers. In six articles since the incident, including this account, Derik's first name, age and neighborhood of residency were incorrectly reported.

Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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