Woman facing vehicular homicide, eluding police charges after chase that ended with crash, daughter’s death

Pamela Cabrera, who’s also facing charges of assaulting police, ordered held in Duval County jail on $2.2M bond

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman was arrested and booked into the Duval County jail on multiple charges after a chase Thursday that ended with a crash into a retention pond off Interstate 95 near the State Road 9B exit and the death of a 5-year-old girl who was identified by family as her daughter.

Pamela Cabrera, 32, is facing charges of vehicular homicide, eluding police and assaulting police.

Her first appearance was set for Friday afternoon, but the bailiff told the judge “she kind of unraveled” and was being disruptive, so she would not be in court.

The judge set a $2.2 million dollar bond on the charges, with an arraignment date of April 21.

PREVIOUS STORY: Child dies following pursuit of kidnapping suspect ending with crash in pond, police say

News4JAX has been going through Cabrera’s past court documents. Included in an affidavit filed by Cabrera’s mother in 2020 is a photo of Cabrera and Cabrera’s daughter, Vanity.

An uncle confirmed to News4JAX that Cabrera’s daughter was the child who died in the crash.

News4JAX was told the child was removed from Cabrera’s custody in April 2020.

Included in an affidavit filed by Pamela Cabrera’s mother in 2020 is a photo of Cabrera and Cabrera's daughter. (Court records)

In the affidavit, Cabrera’s mother also states that Cabrera suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Court records also show Cabrera had three battery charges in September 2020 after punching three people she did not know.

While in jail in November 2020, according to court records, she was escorted out of her cell after exhibiting self-harming behavior when she spit on and hit a nurse working at the jail.

All of these charges were dropped.

An order from January 2021 adjudicating Cabrera says she was charged with a felony, deemed mentally ill and incompetent to process. The order reads, “In the near future she will inflict serious bodily harm on herself or another person.”

She was sent to the Department of Children and Families the same month.

Then in March 2021, DCF said she no longer met the criteria and she was taken back to jail in April.

A month later, she was released to the custody of her mother or another relative.

Records show Vanity had been living with her aunt since 2020. News4JAX returned to her neighborhood, where neighbors saw police officers Thursday.

Brittany Carpenter lives down the street and said her children went to school with Vanity at Garden City Elementary School.

“It’s incredibly sad. Not just because it’s a young girl that had passed, but the mother was having mental health issues and probably could have used some help,” Carpenter said.

News4JAX spoke by phone Friday with Cabrera’s family, who said they are still processing everything and aren’t ready to talk about this.

Police: Suspect leads officers on chase, runs red lights

Officer Christian Hancock, public information officer with the Sheriff’s Office, said police responded just after 7:30 p.m. Thursday to the city’s Northside in regard to a reported kidnapping in progress. A redacted police report obtained by News4JAX does not say when or where the kidnapping occurred.

As officers were en route to the call, Hancock said, an officer came up to the suspect’s vehicle. He noted that the suspect and the 5-year-old girl were known to each other.

“As the officer turned to approach the vehicle from behind, the suspect sped off, obviously seeing the officer, and a pursuit began at that point as we were responding to a kidnapping in progress with an armed suspect,” Hancock said.

Hancock said the pursuit, which included dozens of officers, lasted from Dunn Avenue and Biscayne Boulevard, got up on I-95 south, proceeded through Jacksonville over the Fuller Warren Bridge and ended up near the exit for 9B -- approximately 30 miles.

During the chase, according to the police report, the driver ran red lights and almost hit multiple cars while changing lanes. Police also said the driver hit speeds over 90 mph.

A News4JAX employee was traveling south on I-95 when their dash camera captured a vehicle traveling on the shoulder at a high rate of speed. Several police cruisers appeared to be pursuing the SUV.

The video was taken near the Old St. Augustine Road exit -- just a few miles away from the scene of the crash.

“The driver was able to maintain until we got to this point, at which time she attempted to exit 9B,” Hancock said, which is when he said the driver drove off the ramp and into the pond.

According to Hancock, numerous officers got out of their vehicles and went into the water, where the suspect was apprehended.

Hancock said the child was not immediately located. The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and dive team came out to help locate the child.

“The child was, unfortunately, located at the bottom of the pond, deceased,” Hancock said. She was outside the SUV when she was found.

Crews pulled the SUV out of the pond at about 2:30 a.m. Friday. It was severely damaged and smashed on the passenger side. The front passenger door was ripped off, and all the windows were busted out. Hancock said no other vehicles were damaged during the pursuit.

One officer was hurt running into the pond after the crash and had to be taken to the hospital, but the officer is expected to be OK.

Police also said that the woman had a knife at the time of the kidnapping, but the report from JSO does not mention anything about a knife.

About the Authors:

A Florida-born, Emmy Award winning journalist and proud NC A&T SU grad

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.