ROCKINGHAM — Jada Spaulding Doyle was remembered as a lovely and lively 16-year-old high school sophomore on Monday, the day after a car crash early Sunday morning on Route 5 in Putney took her life.
Spaulding Doyle was a passenger in a car driven by a Bellows Falls Union High School classmate, also 16, from Saxtons River, who Vermont State Police have not identified, but who now faces drunken driving charges, death resulting, in Windham Family Court on Wednesday.
Spaulding Doyle died at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital where she was taken after the 3 a.m. crash, and after rescue personnel extricated her from the crushed 2003 Audi her friend was driving. Vermont State Police said that emergency medical treatment was given to her on the way to the hospital, but that she succumbed shortly after arriving.
The driver was also taken to the hospital, suffering from what police said were non-life threatening injuries.
Spaulding Doyle was a sophomore at the high school, and had lived with her grandmother Annette Spaulding in Rockingham for many years. Her father, Bob Doyle, lives in North Walpole, N.H.; her mother, Christine Spaulding, died in 2018.
By Monday afternoon, a memorial at the crash scene included more than a dozen bouquets of flowers and a red, heart-shaped sign, asking people to sign their name and leave a message. Someone had spray-painted in orange on the road, “I (heart) you Jader Forever!”
William Noble of Saxtons River came to the memorial, just north of the entrance to Landmark College and across the road from the crash scene, because, he said, he just didn’t believe it.
Noble said he and Spaulding Doyle had been best friends, and had dated in seventh and eighth grade. They had been band mates together at Bellows Falls Middle School, and class partners.
Even though he went to Vermont Academy, and she to BFUHS, they remained very close.
She was a wonderful person, he said, a loving, kind, and positive person. “She was very smart. She was a good person. She could cheer up a room, and her contagious laugh!”
He said he called the girl who was driving, whom he described as Spaulding Doyle’s best friend, to see how she was and what had happened. “She said, ‘All I know is she did not suffer,’” said Noble, who was visibly upset, like most of the students.
The two girls had been at a McDonald’s in Springfield earlier in the evening, and then had gone to a party, said Hannah Hallock, 17, of Springfield. Hallock, along with friend Hannah Presch, 18, also of Springfield, brought large bouquets of red and yellow roses to the crash scene.
The two Springfield girls said they met Spaulding Doyle through friends, and Hallock said she saw her at McDonald’s on Saturday, but only to wave to. “She smiled, she seemed really happy,” said Hallock, who said Springfield High School has so far escaped the tragedies that Bellows Falls has not.
Fond memories of Spaulding Doyle brought Wendy Kaplan, of Walpole, N.H., and her 15-year-old daughter to leave a painted rock at the scene.
The daughter and Jada grew up together at Putney’s Grammar School, until Spaulding Doyle transferred to Bellows Falls Middle School, Wendy Kaplan said.
And like others, the Kaplans said Spaulding Doyle was an extraordinary person — loving, kind, positive and joyous. In the summer, she went to art camp. She played volleyball.
“She never complained about anything, you never heard a negative word from her. She was the most exceptional human being,” Kaplan said.
Friends said she loved sports. Just Saturday afternoon, Spaulding Doyle played second base for the BFUHS softball team, batting cleanup.
Accolades filled social media Sunday and Monday about Spaulding Doyle, from family, friends and her former employer, where last summer she manned the cash register at popular Pete’s Stand, a farm stand in nearby Walpole, N.H.
“Jada worked for us last season, but we knew her longer than that,” said Teresa Janiszyn, whose family owns the farm and farm stand. “But we’ve known Annette forever. She worked at the stand but she would also take my kids home to Annette’s to go to the pool and the trampoline.”
Janiszyn said that Jada’s mother Christine also worked for the Janiszyn family at Pete’s.
Janiszyn said that despite her mother’s tragic death of a drug overdose, Jada was strong and resilient.
“She was obviously very sad about it and she had really good memories of her mother,” but Janiszyn said the tragedy didn’t define her.
“She was going to do really great things,” she said. “She was not going to be held down by her mother’s passing.”
Teresa and John Janiszyn said Jada was mature beyond her 16 years. Not that she was overly serious, Teresa said, but that she was “more mature than some 25-year-olds” that have worked for them, John Janiszyn said.
She worked in the farm stand because she had poise and could help people solve problems, or deal with customers, she said.
“She was so good with customers,” she said.
Christopher Hodsden, principal at Bellows Falls Union High School, said the school put its emergency plan in place and additional counselors were on hand and available for students to talk about Jada and grieve.
He said the school “really takes its cue” from the students, about how they want to process the difficult situation, the loss of a classmate and friend.
The school’s crisis team met on Sunday to discuss how to get the school through the tragedy.
Hodsden and the school dealt with a similar tragedy two years ago, when 15-year-old Vincenzo Ruggiero of Saxtons River, a passenger in a car driven by Owen Perry, 16, of Westminster, died after receiving severe injuries. Police said Perry was driving too fast and lost control, hitting a tree.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation moved the memorial for Spaulding Doyle across the road because of safety concerns about the sharp, blind corner. Landmark College officials asked people not to leave lighted candles at the site because of dry and windy conditions.
Vermont State Police have not confirmed Spaulding Doyle’s name, with police spokesman Adam Silverman referring all comment to Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.
Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney David Gartenstein refused to confirm that charges were pending in family court against the driver, and he declined to comment on whether state police were investigating the source of the underage drinking that contributed to the fatal crash.
“The Windham County State’s Attorney’s office has no information to provide in response to the question whether criminal proceedings may commence relating to the DWI-fatality, the subject of the Vermont State Police press release,” Gartenstein said.
State law regarding criminal charges against people under the age of 19 have been changed in recent years, he said, restricting how people under the age of 19 may be charged and be subject to a public record criminal division proceedings, he said.
“I’ve got nothing else,” he said.