Durham woman, 18, back home with newborn daughter after surviving hit-and-run

·4 min read

A young woman is back home with her family after suffering life-threatening injuries in a head-on crash earlier this month in East Durham. So is the newborn child she was carrying.

Heven Rooks, 18, was driving north on South Briggs Avenue on the evening of Jan. 8 when a 2002 Cadillac Escalade slammed head-on into her 2013 Nissan Sentra, according to Durham police. Rooks, who was eight months’ pregnant, was rushed to Duke University Hospital with what were thought to be life-threatening injuries.

Complications from those injuries led doctors to perform an emergency C-section, and Rooks gave birth to her daughter Za’riah that night, Rooks’ father, John Rooks Jr., told The News & Observer on Friday.

On Thursday, Durham police identified a 26-year-old man believed to have been driving the Escalade when it struck Heven Rooks’ sedan.

Police issued a warrant for Devon Jarandz Edwards on charges of felony hit-and-run resulting in serious injury, reckless driving to endanger, speeding, driving with a revoked license, failure to register a motor vehicle and failure to reduce speed.

Edwards turned himself in on Saturday, police said.

A traumatizing night at the hospital

Within hours of the crash, doctors were helping deliver Heven Rooks’ baby. The family was terrified at first, because Heven’s newborn daughter, Za’riah, wasn’t breathing. But doctors were able to quickly resuscitate her, John Rooks said.

After giving birth, however, Heven Rooks continued to bleed. Doctors struggled to get that bleeding under control.

“You can imagine how I felt, sitting and pacing back and forth in that room,” John Rooks said. “For all I know, it could’ve been 20 or 30 minutes, but it felt (like) days, if you know what I mean.”

Doctors later told him his daughter was stable, but had been sedated.

When he first saw her the next day, Heven’s voice was still very weak as she managed to say that she was blessed, John Rooks recalled.

Heven Rooks came home four days later, and she was reunited with her daughter two days after that. The hospital had kept Za’riah an extra two days to try to increase her weight slightly, since she had been born about two weeks premature.

As of Friday, Heven Rooks continues to recover from her injuries, and still has back pain and leg pain, her father said.

But even as she recuperates from the physical toll of the crash, “there’s still a lot of trauma” for Rooks and her entire family, John Rooks said.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the thought of this particular situation,” John Rooks said. “Every time my daughter goes out to drive, or really any of my kids, now my mindset is on like, ‘Jesus, I’m hoping to see you, I’m hoping to see you come back home.’”

Most people know what it’s like to worry for their child’s safety like that, he said, but “when it finally happens to you, you kind of see things a little bit differently.”

Police file additional charges in hit-and-run

Police issued a warrant Thursday against a second person as well: 33-year-old Teresa Christy Hooker, who faces charges of felony accessory after the fact and filing a false police report. Hooker turned herself in Thursday night.

According to police, Edwards was driving 62 mph in a 25 mph zone at the time of the crash. The collision also caused damage to a Nissan Maxima and a Chrysler 200 that were parked on South Briggs Avenue, police said previously.

After fleeing the scene, the driver of the Escalade struck and broke two power poles on South Driver Street before abandoning the SUV a short distance away on East Peabody Street, police said earlier. The abandoned SUV was found by a patrol officer.

Edwards also faces a charge of hit-and-run involving property damage for the damaged utility poles, police said Thursday.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Edwards is asked to call 911 or Durham Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200. Crimestoppers offers cash rewards for information that leads to felony arrests, and callers do not have to identify themselves.

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