Father of 4-year-old girl killed in crash mourns her death, community gathers

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
Miguel Romo poses for a selfie with his daughter Maleena Valdez. Maleena, 4, was killed in a crash as she played in playground in Arcadia on Wednesday. (CREDIT: Courtesy of family)

The 18-year-old driver in a crash that killed a 4-year-old and seriously injured a 5-year-old at an Arcadia daycare playground turned herself into Fort Myers police early Friday morning.

Kiara Morant, of Lehigh Acres, is currently in the Lee County Jail, having been taken into custody by the Fort Myers Police Department.

According to FMPD, Morant turned herself in before 5 a.m. Friday on an open warrant from DeSoto County for charges of driving without a valid license and for a crash with serious bodily injury or death.

Morant is accused of driving off State Road 70 and into the playground of the Imagination Station Learning Center. She struck Maleena Valdez, 4, who died at the hospital. The condition and identity of the 5-year-old girl are unknown at this time.

Morant was initially arrested and released from jail on a $120 bond. She told troopers at the time that she has never had a Florida driver’s license.

She was rearrested after Maleena died of her injuries. She faces a felony charge of driving without a license involving death or serious injury.

More recently, Morant was arrested by Fort Myers police after they say she was shoplifting at the Edison Mall.

On Friday, the daycare cut down a tree Morant hit because it was a safety hazard. They started to replace the fence she broke.

Code Enforcement was also onsite to begin work on a guardrail as a precaution.

Maleena’s memorial at the daycare is also growing.

“Last time I saw her I had to drop her off at daycare and obviously she didn’t want to go,” said Miguel Romo, Maleena’s dad.

Maleena cried a little bid, he said.

“That’s just how it is. She never wanted to leave my side,” Romo said. “It hurts a lot but I know she wouldn’t want to see me like this so I just gotta stay strong for her. I’m always going to miss her. I’m always going to miss my little baby.”

Romo said staying strong also means fighting for justice for Maleena.

“They do need to up the charges on this because she didn’t have no license. Who gave her the keys to even drive with no license,” Romo said. “I just want justice for my little girl.”

The Arcadia community is planning a vigil for Maleena and the other children injured on Friday.

Morant will have her first appearance in court Saturday.

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