Desaleen James Had Videotaped The Crash From The Front Passenger's Seat

5:26 PM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Only on WUSA, we have an awe-inspiring follow up about a local teenager who videotaped the alcohol-fueled car crash which killed two of her friends.

For more than a year now, reporter Andrea McCarren has kept in touch with Desaleen James, and couldn't wait to bring you this update.

Desaleen's life has spiraled through trauma and darkness... to a life filled with laughter and joy. But it took more than a year to get here.

"It's close to perfect," said Desaleen of her life now. "I'm not bragging, but it's close to perfect. It is."

In late December of 2011, Desaleen was just 18, videotaping a night of partying from the front passenger seat of a friend's car, when the life she had known was shattered in a matter of seconds.

Desaleen was the only survivor of a breathtaking crash that killed both friends.

"Where I'm at now, it would have been better off if I had died," said Desaleen.

That was Desaleen last December, less than five months ago, when her life had taken another devastating turn. Her mother threw her out of the house when she learned Desaleen was pregnant.

"Everybody turned their backs on me," she said. "My life has gone completely downhill. It's me alone out here in this world."

After our reports on Desaleen aired, something extraordinary happened. A local woman by the name of Brenda Washington posted a comment on my Facebook page. She wrote "If Desaleen's mother doesn't want her, I do." And through me, the Washingtons made plans to take Desaleen out to dinner. 

"I wanted to offer her whatever she needed, if it was a place to stay, we were here for her, if it was money, we were here for her. Just whatever it was she needed," said Brenda Washington.

"Brenda said, guess what? I talked to Andrea McCarren! And I was like!" said Mike Washington, Brenda's husband.

Remembered Desaleen, "So I called. She was like hello? I'm like, this is Desaleen. Ahhhhhh!!!" she screamed re-enacting Brenda's response. 

"I just fell in love with her. I just knew then that I had to take care of her," said Brenda.

"Something clicked," said Mike. "The moment we met her, something clicked. And we let her know if she wanted a family, here we are!"

Not everyone would take in a pregnant teenager they barely knew.

"I consider it a blessing and an honor and a privilege that God allowed this to happen," said Brenda. "I do. I mean, He chose us!"

"I love her like she's my own," said Mike. "She's my daughter. I always say my daughter, Desaleen."

Desaleen's family now includes her Dad, Mike. Mom, Brenda. And sisters, Shakaura and Shelbi. And then, there's the baby Desaleen once told us was her -only- reason for living. Jaiden Odane was born March 15th.

"He's my evening tranquilizer. What I do is I come in and we have man-man time. So he sits on my chest and we talk and he strokes my beard, as he drinks his evening meal," said Mike. "He's a fantastic kid and I see his Mom all in him."

"I have everything any teenager would want, two happily married parents, two annoying young, little sisters, a dog, and I happen to have a baby, and I live in a nice neighborhood," said Desaleen.

"I love her. I love him. They're both such a blessing," said Brenda.

In fact, the love overflowing in this family is so obvious, there are spontaneous bursts of what the Washingtons fondly call 'the Desaleen dance.'

"Now I know I'm somewhere where I can definitely, definitely accomplish what I want to accomplish in life. Failure is not an option for me," said Desaleen.

"I know I'm at a place where my dreams will definitely come true. There's just nothing stopping me now," said Desaleen, with a huge smile on her face.

Desaleen wants to return to college, study political science and eventually, build a career as a motivational speaker. She and her biological mother are now on speaking terms again. Little baby Jaiden brought them together.

Written by Andrea McCarren



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