In Mourning: Father Says Texting, Driving ‘Not Worth It’

PASADENA, Md. (WJZ)—Texting while driving may be to blame for the single-car accident that killed a young college student on Christmas Eve in Anne Arundel County.

Hundreds of mourners braved the frigid cold to pay tribute to the victim who was alone when her car slammed into a tree.

Derek Valcourt spoke with the victim’s family and has more on the candlelight vigil in Pasadena.

Alyssa Bennett would have turned 20 Monday. Instead some 200 of her friends and family mark the occasion with a candlelight vigil after her life was cut short on Christmas Eve when the college student and part-time nanny crashed into a tree on Tick Neck Road in Pasadena.

“It’s really tough,” said her father Gary Bennett. 

Gary Bennett and the rest of her family are finding strength in the hundreds of friends telling stories about how much Alyssa meant to them.

“One minute I’m walking around proud as a peacock with my feathers out, and the next minute I’m bawling my eyes out because I miss her,” he said.

“We’re taking it kind of hard but just seeing all the love from everybody all over, from different states too, it’s really amazing,” said Alyssa’s sister Christie Bennett.

Police are still investigating the cause of the accident, but so far they’ve found multiple possibilities.

“It appears there was a litany of possible contributing factors that led to the crash to include driver error, excessive speed, also possibly alcohol and distracted driving,” said Justin Mulcahy, Anne Arundel County police spokesperson.

Alyssa may have been text messaging while driving, which is against the law in Maryland. Her family hopes other teens won’t make the same mistake.

“One life’s been lost because of a text message, man,” said Gary Bennett. “These young kids need to know that it’s not worth it. Pull off the side of the road.”

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to a college fund for her nephew in Alyssa’s honor. The account is at Tower Federal Credit Union.

  • pearl

    Our prayers go out to the family but why on earth is the family asking for donations to be made for the nephew’s college fund?????? If they don’t need money to pay for the funeral like so everyone seems to request nowadays, why not having the money go to a charity???? Did this girl work and she was saving to put the nephew through college??? I doubt it.. Maybe I’m missing something???

    • lindsey

      Yes you are missing something! If you didnt know her or her nephew then dont donate and dont post a comment on here! You have no clue what you are talking about!

      • emily

        thank you!

    • Grover

      im so sorry for the loss, but I must be missing something too. When is it ok to ask for $$ from the public because of bad decisions made? What makes this any different from any other negligent driving accident?

      • Babs

        Perhaps this young person knew first hand how hard it was to support herself and pay for college. She might have been truly close to her nephew and he wanted to follow in her foot steps. Perhaps the nephew’s parents can not afford to send their child to college in the future due to the economic situation, health reasons. No matter if the family would like to see a trust account set-up for the nephew, so be it.
        To Dani, your comment was rude and downright ignorant. it doesn’t matter where the family lives. You should show some respect for them because they are going through hard times. If you have never experienced such a loss, and I hope that you never, then please keep your remarks to yourself.

      • Josh

        rich??? sorry bud…noones rich ..people might be doing fine but its not a rich neighborhood…stop being such a downer and show a little love for people who need it…Its a shame people like you are in this world and comment on situations you have no involvement with or should even be leaving negative comments for…And the thing that makes it different? Im sure if it was your relative you wouldnt be saying any of this…they were asking people who were friends with alyssa for money..not people like you who hide behind fake names such as grover

      • Dani

        Its in rich people area! trhey are all supposedly better than us middle class people.

      • Tina

        In Korea, it is traditional for people to give money to the family to pay their respects (and to pay for the funeral, because theirs are lengthy and expensive). An envelope with the money is handed to the family with “sorry for your loss” written in Korean on the front of the envelope.

        I believe this is a news report, not an obituary. Perhaps their info came from the girl’s obituary. But an obituary and asking that in lieu of flowers a donation be made is very, very commonplace these days, and I do not see where the family asked for money to cover funeral expenses.

        Lastly, it’s very commonplace as well that people are so quick to pass judgment and form opinions from news broadcasts. Adrianne is right, if you don’t agree, don’t donate, don’t worry about it.

      • emily

        thank you babs & josh.

      • emily

        thank you tina!!!

      • Petfriend

        yes, you are missing something…It says in lieu of flowers a donation can be made….that means they are asking those who would usually give flowers, ie family and close friends…NOT the public. The media chose to include that, not the family.

      • Leslie Driver

        One should not Judge the Dead. Feel their pain and offer your prayers instead. My heart goes out to them. I pray God give them the strength to endure their loss and the belief that they will be together again.

    • Adrianne

      Maybe she was really close to her nephew. Perhaps like a little brother to her. You never know. If you don’t agree with it though then don’t donate and don’t worry about it.

      • lizzie

        I’m not donating but honestly, I agree w/ Pearl.. our society somehow thinks it is okay to ask for donations to pay for a funeral when someone dies.. I can see if someone is poor and can’t afford the expense but often times this is not the case. IF this girl was not the sole supporter of her nephew then this is really greedy on the part of the family. Donations are for those who can’t make it without that other person’s support , not just because the family ‘wants’ it.. very tacky and greedy

      • emily

        thank you.

        they asked for people to donate to a college fund INSTEAD of sending flowers. spend 50 dollars on something that will die and need to be thrown away or give the money to cause that better benefit the family specifically the children affected?

        they werent just asking for money from random people. they were saying that theyd prefer for those people who wished to send flowers to donate to a college fund for her nephew, who she was like a mother to.

        theyre not asking for handouts.

      • emily

        and just to be clear. that thank you was directed towards adrianne.

        how is it tacky or greedy of the family to request that the money of those who cared for alyssa go to something that alyssa cared about.

        flowers die & that would be money wasted, in addition to another depressing reminder of the loss of their sister, daughter, neice, and so on. what makes you think that its unreasonable of them to ask that the money be used for a good cause? and for those of you who said that the money should be used for a charity, maybe you should consider the fact that in a case, such as this one, the charity donated to would be of the deceased loved one’s liking. with that said, alyssa would have chosen to give this money, time & energy to her nephew if she were still alive. it is only appropriate that her family would try to continue to carry on in a way she would have appreciated.

        stop assuming that these people are begging for money. that is NOT the case.

    • Josh

      Maybe the money is to go to her nephew since her parents are paying for her funeral, they will not be able to give money to their grandchild’s college fund. Nothing strange about that. Yes her nephew would be her brother or sister’s child which would make her parents grandparents

    • Nikki Dunleavy

      I really feel sorry for you people. I know this young girl and her family personally for over 10 yrs. Rich people??? HAHA This is a family with 5 children and lives off a UPS/Fed ex salary. These people are not rich! She loved her nephew dearly and would of wanted any donations to go to him. Nothing strange! Have some heart! If you don’t agree don’t comment!! No one is forcing you to donate! Jeez the only thing people get out of this story is about the donations? What a sick world we live in today! I will pray for you all, cause you need it! These peopl are middle class hard working folks that have worked hard to provide for their children! Some of these comments just make me sick! MAY GOD BE WITH ALL OF YOU!! RIP ALYSSA

      • emily

        well said. my cousin was really close with alyssa. and shes deeply offended by all of the harsh comments people have posted.

        people are jumping to conclusions about the college fund. i think it is a wonderful idea. flowers are beautiful -while they last, but donating that money to her nephew is something im certain she would have wanted. what better way to have her memory carry on.

        maybe everyone who disagrees should take a minute to put themselves in her familys shoes. if you just lost your daughter what would you wish for her memory?

      • Petfriend

        Nikki, don’t let them get you down…some of these people have no lives at all and all they do is post nasty demeaning comments about others on here every single chance they can. They never comment on the point of the story and in this case tragedy, just on whatever negative trash they can throw out there to somehow make their sordid little lives seem more important. The decent people of MD feel your loss and pain and our sympathies are with everyone during this senseless tragedy.

      • brittany whitby

        well put

    • Bridget

      Pearl I think your comments are judgmental and tacky. I can bet that if this was your family or friend and the decision madeon their behalf was questioned by strangers you would be sooo offended. Think before you speak and have some empathy.

      To the family. I am so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers

    • CHAKHA


  • Sheryl Davis Mckenna

    so sorry for your loss god bless

    • Tasha

      I agree with pearl if the donation request was intended for friends and family then there was no need to tell the news about that part very tacky. That took away from the real issue. I pray that they get through this.

  • jeff

    what they are saying is instead of spending money on flowers send it for something that will provide a future for someone out of this horrible accident

    • East Coast

      jeff, you are right. It’s so sick that people who know nothing come here to make comments like this. They are lacking in their hearts and devoid of all compassion. I hope that the nephew uses any donations to further his education in her honor.

      How terribly sad for the family and I hope they don’t read such childish and mean comments that these losers write here.

  • kathy

    I lost two best friends in 1967 , July, when the hit a tree on Tic Neck Road . They were laid out at the same funeral home together. I have never gotton over this tragedy and my prayers are with this famly. How sad. There is a curve in the road by the church, and it is a dangerous road… More reflective signs should be posted.

    • leighann

      More reflective signs wouldn’t have helped in this case. The accident was caused by human error.

  • Brian

    Im with you Pearl. Why would they want MONEY for her nephew? Something fishy.

    • Petfriend

      I want to believe you misunderstand and are not mearly being nasty. That line is common in many obits for family and friends to donate to something the person loved rather than flowers. In this case she loved her nephew. No one here asked any strangers to do a thing. The father in his grief did an honorable and wonderful thing to reach out to our young people and state that he hoped that other kids would see the senselessness in a prescious life lost from possibly texting while driving. This family has done nothing to warrant such hateful comments on anyone’s part.

  • Jason McMahon

    Fishy? Why would it be fishy to want memorial donations to someone’s college fund instead of flowers that go in the trash?

    • mikey

      Perhaps they should ask for donations to be made to a local school’s chapter of SADD, (students against destructive decisions)… This girl made a poor decision, supposedly, but I can’t see how they have the guts to ask people to send the nephew to college. what’s up with that

    • emily


      • leeann giordano

        has everyone for gotton that a young lady has lost her life i say may god be with her family and friends

      • emily

        that was directed towards jason.

        not “mikey”

  • Stacey M

    I lost a family member in April of this year. The same reason three people died on that day. Three families lost loved ones. I just dont understand why people will NOT LISTEN. DANG IT!!!! THE CALL CAN WAIT!!!!. What did we all do before cell phones???? My uncle Preston A. Matthews would have been 58 on Dec. 23rd, This was the hardest Holiday season my family has ever seen. Peace and Blessing to this young ladies family and to all of you.

    • Tonia

      God Bless you and your family!!

  • Rachel

    I dont understand the donaton end myself. Why exactly would someone want to donate for a cause which in reality, isnt any different from any other Drunk Driving accident that claims a life. None the less, prayers to the family, any tragedy is horrible, but to monopolize on it is just adding the list of crimes done here.

  • Lynn

    the donation thing isn’t fishy.however she was very very close to her nephew and im sure if she were still alive she would want the money spent on her nephews future and not on flowers that will be in the trash in a week. why do people have to be so ignorant if you don’t know the story then don’t talk about it. i think that is a very good idea.

  • Pam

    This is very very sad and her family is in my prayers! I lost my mom this past Friday too! Such a very sad day!

  • brittney

    hello everyone , i think her family is going thru enough & dont need people on here talking bout their decisions im sure they did this donation for a good reason & if i dont have nothing nice to say maybe you should keep your thoughts to yourself & go on about your business . my prayers are with the bennett familly , im so sorry about your lose . alyssa was an amazing girl ! & as for the fake id who in this world hasnt had one & those who didnt just didnt know how to have fun & im sure alyssa would relive every second of her life the way she did ( outgoing & fun )

    • Poca

      I DID NOT have a fake idea so NO every1 did not have one, drinking and driving is crazy , texting and driving is even worse as far as I am concerned the two mixed together is deadly. I agree though this is not the place to discuss this they lost their daughter and she cant take back her mistakes now. Not that is helps but at least no one else was injured for this family to have that on their plate as well.

      I am so sorry for their loss I have a 20 year old son who passed out in his car at 18 due to a heart condition driving home (we were blessed he is fine) but we have issues with him texting and driving and I worry EVERYDAY about this phone call so I know this family has to be suffering real bad and we need to think about them before we post here.

      • brittney

        ok now imagine it being your son & people being on here leaving the ignorant comments you people are . i hope you read back one day & see how cold hearted & miserable you people are .

  • Josh

    All you people with your negative comments…really need a reality check and to stop sitting behind your computers making comments that are not needed…She was loved by many people and will always be remembered…Show a little care and heart for once in your lifes..Nothing fishy..she cares about her family…Wouldnt you want your family taken care of? Exactly my point..stop being miserable and looking to put people down when there trying to get through a tough situation..Its people like yall who are the way the world is..RIP ALYSSA…never forgotten…

    • pearl2

      Josh, everyone has a right to their opinion and we have all clearly voiced that on here.. It does not belittle her memory or make her any ‘less’ of a person.. No one is trying to take away the fact that she may have been a good person. Simple comments can not do that and quite honestly if the family/friends can’t see that then maybe they shouldn’t be reading it. Last time I checked, we live in America and have a right to free speech. Quite honestly, I’m grateful that her poor choices did not kill anyone else… or am I wrong for saying that too?

  • Debbie

    My prayers and with this family, and for all of those who chose to comment negatively on this story. The assumptions (this is NOT a rich area…I know, I live here) and the questioning of where the donations should or shouldn’t go are completely inappropriate and quite frankly no one’s business. It’s time to be kind and compassionate…put your self absorbed, “all knowing” selves aside for a bit and offer a prayer for peace for this family instead. You may feel much better about yourselves.

    • R | Pasadena

      I agree with everything you said except for your comment that these people asking for money to put the nephew through college is “no one’s business.”

      It became everybody’s business after they wasted no time setting up an account at Tower Federal Credit Union and asking people to give money to benefit the family — some of whom presumably could be complete and utter strangers in the general public.

      If she loved animals, maybe to a rescue shelter, or if she had some other favorite charity, yes — that would be a nice thing to do in her “honor.”

      Otherwise, It is not surprising to me that some would see the “in lieu of flowers send cash” bit as at least a little exploitative.

      • pearl2

        and how is it your”s??? Last time I checked, we live in America and I have a right to post on here just like you or anyone else

      • Debbie

        Don’t contribute….it is no longer your business.

      • pearl2

        You are so right.. Thanks for stating it another way because obviously those who disagree with our comments feel that only they are allowed to express themselves. There is no right or wrong here, just ‘free speech.’ I’m sorry that everyone that feels the comments about donating to the nephew are inappropriate, but those are our feelings and we are entitled to have them

      • Lee

        P.S. I guess it “became everybody’s business” as soon as the media got a hold of it. And when the family didn’t have the state of mind to say “no comment”, or just request privacy. -not that that can guarantee unsolicited responses. I can only hope that no one near and dear to me ever gets in a news story that hits the internet….

      • Lee

        R, – I would say I misspoke , and instead of “cause’ I should have said “reason”. -But, when I did say “cause”, I was not at that point referring to the nephew’s college fund, I was referring to ANY “in lieu of” request that you might find in any obituary in the state. They may be causes, they may not. I thought that a cause was ANY charitable undertaking, anyway. Before you pick at the use of “charitable”, it does not necessarily have to do with licensed and regulated entities. You can be charitable to anyone or anything you like. But you seem to have determined exactly what can be considered causes, and what can’t. Like you said we all have opinions . Just don’t “go all English teacher” on ME, I’ll tear your little diatribe UP. Just give me a red pen. And I won’t walk away from my computer, but I will unsubscribe from this senseless opinions/blog. I’ve never read these kind of things before, and will go forth blissfully not reading them anymore ;)

      • andrea

        get off your high horse. you made your point pearl. why do you feel the need to keep arguing it? someones life was lost here and all you feel is the need to make sure ‘your opinion’ is heard.get out of the house and maybe go make some friends so you can possibly feel some of the love people have for this girl!

      • Lee

        I think you missed your calling. Your new years resolution should be to sift through and investigate every obituary the in the state, that has mention of setting up a bank account (that they wasted no time in doing?!) for donations in lieu of flowers, for any cause that you find offensive or politically incorrect. You might be surprised at what you find. The family did not put out a classified ad for donations. The news media merely repeated the obit information. That’s the only reason it became “everybody’s business”. How do you know what would be a “nice” thing to do in a deceased’s honor, if you don’t even know the deceased? I’m sure they’re the better judge of that.

      • R | Pasadena

        Lee — in the opinion of many,diverting expressions of sympathy or condolences in the form of flowers to the nephew’s college fund is not a “cause.”


        1. Research for the cure of breast cancer or any cancer
        2. Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association
        3. Helping the children of a firefighter or police officer who died in the line of duty while serving the community and was the major source of support for the children
        4. A homeless shelter
        5. An animal shelter
        6. A soup kitchen
        7. Anything neutral (not self-serving) connected to the deceased

        You know what opinions are, right? Everybody has one. Got a problem with it? Well, other people have a problem with yours. This is the way it is in a TV station’s comment section in a free society.

        Even obituaries have opinions. Someone can be a total louse while they were living but their obituary or their eulogy make it sound like their on a freight train on greased rails to Heaven. (Not at all saying this is true of Alyssa.)

        What is tacky? Whatever anybody wants to say is (in THEIR opinion). If you read something you don’t like, walk away from your computer and instead get ready to watch the Ravens beat the Bengals or something.

  • Adriana

    I feel so sorry for the family of this young woman. I cannot fathom or imagine the pain and suffering her parents, family and friends are enduring. May her memory always be a comfort to you

  • Katherine

    This is a horrible situation – I’m a few years older then Alyssa but I know a lot of her friends, she was a wonderful girl. Please, stop commenting on where the money is going. It is none of our buisness. I couldn’t imagine ever saying something negative about what her family is doing and going through right now. It doesn’t matter if its a poor or rich(which its not) community. If you don’t agree with it, don’t donate. Keep your thoughts to yourself. My prayers are with her family & friends.

  • R | Pasadena

    “as for the fake id who in this world hasnt had one & those who didnt just didnt know how to have fun & im sure alyssa would relive every second of her life the way she did”

    This has got to be one of the DUMBEST comments I have ever read in my entire life. Completely stupid beyond imagination.

    • pearl2

      Again, you are right.. Why is it that people feel it is justified to defend poor judgement? This is a sad situation all around. The only positive that could possibly come out of this is that people realize texting/drinking/ driving etc is a deadly combination. Not everyone gets a fake ID and there are many people in this world who chose NOT to drink and drive or text and drive because quite honestly they care too much about themselves and others on the road. Again, thank God no one else was killed. I didn’t see any comments made about the injuries the nanny sustained.. ????

      • Poca

        She is a nanny, was what the statement meant.

      • Pat

        Pearl, yes, this is America and you do have a right to post what you feel. I also have that right to say, that if you weren’t hiding behind email and I knew you personally, I wouldn’t like you. Your soul is obviously missing…I think you need to search for it.

        You also need to learn to comprehend what you read re: nanny

  • R | Pasadena

    Dear Editor: A person does not go “balling” his or her eyes out. “Bawling,” maybe, but definitely not balling.

  • Brittany

    It makes me sick that people have nothing better to do but sit on here and post nasty comments. Yes, maybe Alyssa made poor decisions this night but EVERYONE makes a poor decision every now and then. At the very least be empathetic for a beautiful teenager losing her life. Think of what her family is going through. She was obviously extremely close to her nephew. All the family was saying is instead of wasting money on flowers that will go in te trash help to put her nephew through college. Who is anyone to demean their intentions? And as for Pasadena being rich HAHA try again. This area is lower to middle class. Get over yourselves people and at the very least get some empathy. RIP Alyssa, beautiful angel.

  • Nabil Fermaoui

    ‘Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return’ rest in peace

  • Steven Chase

    I don’t see why everyone is criticizing this family’s decision to open up the account. If you don’t like it, then don’t donate. However, people should at least be able to show a little sympathy to the girl who lost her life (regardless of her decisions) and to the family who lost her during this holiday time.

    • Ben

      It is because they are trying to have a financial gain becuase of this. That is just pathetic! It is a tradegy that she died but a miracle she was the only victim. I am disgusted that the family would try to make money off this (even if it was she would have wanted).

      • emily

        theyre not trying to make money!!!

        the video said IN LIEU of flowers. if you werent going to send flowers dont worry about the college fund!!!!

      • eric

        I have 2 nephews and if something happened to me, I would want to help get through college so, its not pathetic!

  • chris

    btw, it’s spelled “bawling”, not “balling”

  • Truth

    I have driven drunk and texted…It was a terrible mistake, and I am thankful that I learned my lesson before I could hurt or kill myself or anyone else. It’s unfortunate that this young lady did not have the opportunity to learn or have someone that was willing to step up and tell her how poor her decisions were.
    I did not know this girl. It is natural for people to try to paint a positive picture of the deceased because we have this preconception that we should not speak ill of the dead.
    However, I think there is an opportunity here to teach other young people about the dangers of these types of decisions that should not be wasted. And, hopefully, had she survived, she really would not have “relived every second of her life the way she did.
    It’s my own opinion that a college fund for her nephew is probably a little on the tacky side, but to each their own.

    • justice

      Very well written Truth.. It seems that there are people on here who tried to say the same thing but others jumped all over their case. There are definitely lessons to be learned here and as many others have said, thank goodness no one else was driving down that road at the same time that she was

  • leighann

    I am extremely sorry that a young person with promise lost their life. I hope that someone out there reads this story and thinks twice before drinking illegally, driving while intoxicated and texting while driving on a road that needs your full attention. All poor decisions that have no excuse. I pray comfort for the family and friends. I do wonder why tragedy seems to be cause to ask for donations but that is for another day.

  • leighann

    Come on people…let up on the hate..these are family and friends who are grieving and the hate rhetoric is totally classless and inappropriate. Have some sensitivity. As for Pasadena being rich…what planet? These are hardworking, dedicated, middle class people who love their families.

  • nik

    O.M.G i cant believe all these comments you people are out of control get a life. R.I.P young lady your in a better place. Everyone makes mistakes she just had to learn the hard way. come on people will all have made mistakes it may not have been textings and driving or drunk driving but we all made mistakes. reality check. Her family are in my prayers. And i will be donating to her nephew college fund very good decision.

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