They say the victim, 30-year-old Ashley Charles wasn't one to bite her tongue "She just always spoke her mind," says cousin Sheba Gardner. "She was very blunt, she wasn't afraid to say anything, she was very bold."
But her voice would be forever silenced one early Sunday morning. While traveling north on Ridge Avenue December 15th, the car Charles was riding in left the road, hitting a tree. The impact instantly killing her. Her boyfriend, who was driving drunk, survived.
"It was so devastating," says Gardner. "To get a call that early in the morning, you're in denial, because you never think something like this could happen to your family."
An in an eerie premonition, the week before her death, Gardner says she and her cousin had a serious conversation about drunk driving "She promised me that she would not drink and drive, and the young man as well would not drink and drive."
Sadly, those warnings would fall on deaf ears, as they do all across the country. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, every 90-seconds someone is injured in alcohol fueled crashes. "It doesn't just affect the person that's drinking and driving, there are innocent people killed all the time on a daily basis."
But Gardner isn't harboring resentment against the man who caused the death of her cousin. Instead she hopes the story will inspire someone to think twice before taking the wheel. "You think you know how much you should drink, one or two drinks is okay, but you just never know."
Ashley's boyfriend, 24-year-old Dawon Keenan of Rockford faces several charges including reckless homicide and DUI.
Ashley leaves behind three young children. Her family is seeking donations to help with funeral costs. Anyone wishing to help should go to: