Investigators: ‘7-year-old girl fell from window leading to death’

Heavy traffic exits the northbound State Route 14 freeway at Newhall Avenue. Dan Watson/The Signal

Investigators are saying they believe the child killed on Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass over the weekend fell out of a moving-car window, leading to her death.  

In a news release distributed on Wednesday morning, officials reiterated many of the details they had reported earlier in the week regarding the investigation, but added the age of the child — a 7-year-old girl — and some details on how they believe she exited the vehicle.     

“After initial investigations it was determined the 7-year-old female child fell out of the moving 1999 Lincoln Navigator through an open window, and as a result sustained fatal injuries,” said the release from the California Highway Patrol. “At this time the circumstances behind how she fell out are under investigation.” 

The girl’s mother, Veronda Gladney, 28, of Lancaster, and Gladney’s boyfriend, Michael Branch, 39, of Hawthorne, have both been arrested on suspicion of child endangerment, according to the CHP. Highway Patrol officials listed Gladney as the driver of the vehicle and Branch as a passenger. 

Branch was due to appear in San Fernando Superior Court on Wednesday for his arraignment. As of the publication of this story, it was unclear when the mother’s arraignment had been scheduled.  

The young girl, who investigators previously said was 4-6 years old but has not yet been identified by the officials at the L.A. County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, was killed on the northbound I-5, just north of Weldon Canyon Road at approximately 3:40 a.m. 

“On July 2, 2022, at approximately 0339 hours, CHP, Los Angeles Communications Center (LACC), received a 9-1-1 call,” read a report from CHP. “9-1-1 caller reported they had struck an unknown stationary object, which was blocking the roadway on I-5 N/B (Golden State Freeway) at Weldon Canyon Road.”  

“CHP Newhall Area Officers arrived on scene to investigate the incident,” the report continued. “It was determined that the unknown object was a child who had been struck by several vehicles, which caused fatal injuries.” 

Branch is being held in lieu of $100,00 bail.  

No additional information about whether the parents stayed on the scene or who had called in to report the child falling out of the vehicle was available as of the publication of this story.     

This incident is still actively being investigated and anyone with information regarding this incident can contact the CHP Newhall Area Office at 661-600-1600. 

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