Cadence Orcutt was with the grandfather she loved so much when she died in a northeast Kansas traffic accident.
The twist in Sunday’s wreck on a gravel country road in Doniphan County is that Cadence, age 8, reportedly was driving the car.
That’s what her 56-year-old grandfather told officers when they arrived on the scene, and the online Kansas Highway Patrol report lists her as the driver.
A relative says that Cadence’s mother would not have allowed her to drive a car.
“She would never have allowed or condoned it,” said Jacee Moran, a cousin of Cadence’s mother. “Absolutely not.”
On Wednesday, investigators with the Highway Patrol and the Doniphan County Sheriff’s Office said they were continuing to pore over evidence to determine just what happened. The results of the investigation will be turned over to the county prosecutor to determine what, if any, charges might be filed.
Meanwhile, family and friends are mourning the death of the sweet and selfless girl from the small town of Troy, Kan.
“She was a little girl with a heart of gold,” Moran said. “I’ve never met an 8-year-old who thought so much about other people.”
When she was 6, Cadence spearheaded an effort to adopt another family for Christmas.
“It was her idea and she used her own money,” Moran said.
Cadence was the oldest of four children. Her youngest sibling was just 6 weeks old, according to Moran.
“She was such a little mother hen,” Moran said. “She was the best person ever to her brothers and sisters.”
Sunday’s crash occurred about 3:30 p.m. as Cadence and her grandfather headed home from church on 175th Road, two miles west of Wathena in Doniphan County, about 1 1/2 miles from their home in Troy.
Doniphan County is across the Missouri River from St. Joseph.
The Highway Patrol reported the driver, “for an unknown reason,” lost control of the 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, which went off the road and down an embankment. The car overturned and landed on its top, according to the patrol’s crash report.
Cadence was not wearing a seat belt, and it was unknown whether her grandfather was, the report noted.
Moran said Cadence loved her grandfather and she doesn’t believe that he would do anything to intentionally hurt her.
As for what family members think of charges, Moran said: “Everybody has their own opinion on that.”
The grandfather has a history of driving-related convictions, according to area court records.
Most recently, in December 2013, he was sent to prison after a Buchanan County, Mo., conviction for driving with a revoked or suspended license, according to the records. He was released from prison in March, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Funds have been set up at two banks to help the family with funeral expenses.
Donations to the Cadence Orcutt fund are being accepted at Nodaway Valley Bank, P.O. Box 7315, St. Joseph, MO 64507.
Donations are also being accepted at the Pony Express Community Bank in St. Joseph and other surrounding communities in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.