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Facing Summer

December 17, 2010

(Collaboration with Colleen Jenkins)

TAMPA — The little girl peered out the window of the car on the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway. She was on these very lanes two years ago, headed to the beach to celebrate her mother’s birthday.

Summer Moll was 4 then and hadn’t yet learned what it felt like to have pins hold her tiny legs together, or a head wound that just wouldn’t heal, or the knowledge that when mommies go to heaven, they don’t return.

Summer, now 6, knows the exact spot where it all changed.

“Right there,” she pointed, at a sign memorializing her 24-year-old mother, Jennifer O’Boyle.

“The girl hit cones and then hit us,” she said.

Cheryl Maria Riemann downed half a bottle of vodka and ate cookie dough before heading to see a stranger who planned to pay for sex. Her blood-alcohol level was at 0.244 percent when those cones tumbled, and she barreled into oncoming traffic.

They crashed head-on.

Riemann, 28, also passed the expressway crash scene Tuesday, this time in a jail van. She already pleaded guilty, and now it was time for her Hillsborough County court sentencing.

It was time for her to face Summer…

Story discussion on “I shared this story with a few colleagues and was surprised by the responses. Several thought it was exploitative to use a 6-year-0ld victim to tell this story. I sharply disagreed and said I thought it was risky, creative reporting that resulted in a powerful narrative. What do other think? Exploitative or not?”

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