A mother’s heartache: “I’ve lost a daughter & have a son in ICU”

“It brings me comfort to know a part of Maggie Dunn will continue to enhance the lives of other people because she was an organ donor,” said Maggie’s mother Erin Martin. “They were able to save her cornea and tissue.”

It’s been one of the most difficult things a mother has to endure, losing a child, but in Martin’s case, she’s spending most of her time in the ICU with her son Liam Dunn on top of losing a daughter, Maggie Dunn.

Liam, 20, was the backseat passenger in the car with his 17-yr-old sister Maggie Dunn and her best friend, Caroline Gill, 15. Martin has three children, Victoria, Liam & Maggie, who was the baby.

Maggie Dunn
Erin Martin’s three children

Maggie Dunn and Caroline Gill died after they were caught in a high-speed chase over a stolen vehicle from Baton Rouge and hit by Addis Officer David Cauthron on New Year’s Eve. Cauthron is said to have been going nearly 90mph on La1 in West Baton Rouge Parish, with lights and sirens activated but never yielded at the red light where he’s said to have t-boned the car with Maggie, Caroline and Liam in it.

Cauthron has since been arrested and charged with two counts of negligent homicide. District Attorney Tony Clayton said he will still present the case to a WBR Grand Jury.

“I am going to take it before a grand jury to see if there are any additional charges. It’s just protocol because it’s officer involved. We’ve already established a probable cause. By putting it before a grand jury, you get to test the evidence and see what the public thinks of it,” said Clayton. “It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator is, a cop, the da or anyone. We are a nation of laws, not of men. Here, our law appears to be broken and we will let our people in the parish determine if the conduct deviated from the norm.”

Liam was rushed to a hospital where he remains in critical condition and in the ICU. He’s still too weak to endure surgery right now. Liam’s mother and father Randall Dunn are taking turns staying with him at the hospital.

“They’re worried about some bruising on his heart and lungs. We’re uncertain of a surgery date right now. I’s all just day to day right now. We’re waiting for his lungs to be strong enough,” said Liam’s mom.

Liam Dunn, 20

Martin said they’re finalizing funeral arrangements for the best friends. They will be separate funerals. The Dunns/Martins have not set a date just yet because that will depend on whether Liam will be strong enough to make the funeral. As of now, Liam still is not aware his sister and Caroline did not survive the crash.

The mother said she slept in Maggie’s room Monday night and it was the best night of sleep she’s had.

“I could smell her on her sweater. I just wanted to stay in there forever and I pray her smell stays on that sweater,” said Martin.

She said Maggie signed up on her own to become an organ donor and now, “It brings me comfort to know a part of Maggie Dunn will continue to enhance the lives of other people because she was an organ donor. They were able to save her cornea and tissue.”

Since her sudden death, Martin said she reached out to many of her friends asking them to send her their favorite memory of Maggie and any pictures of her. That includes memories from Maggie Dunn & Caroline Gill’s other two best friends Abby and Brooklyn.

“In all these messages I got from her friends, the word that came out was “light” and it was fitting that we honored her with a candlelight vigil Monday night.

I had the best day Monday looking at all those pictures. She really was a light to people but it wasn’t just that. She was funny and outgoing. Several people said when they first came to Brusly High, she was the first person to say, ‘Hi’ to them.

She was so smart that she was taking honors classes with some of them being college level classes all with a crazy, busy schedule. She had been cheering since middle and this was her third years as a varsity cheerleader at Brusly High. She did A-team where she helped mentor other students, Beta, student council and she was going to be on prom committee. She was beautiful but on the inside, she was even more beautiful. She could literally do anything she tried to do except sing,” Martin said jokingly. “She would do anything for anybody.”

Maggie Dunn modeling for the boutique she worked at in Brusly

She was very social. She was a very hard worker. She was determined to have a job. She worked at a local boutique and was super stylish. She talked me into wearing things I would normally never wear but when I would get to school, I would get so many compliments. Liam and Maggie always made me feel included and I enjoyed being around them and their friends. They never made me feel like, ‘Oh mom, don’t talk to me.’ I taught at their high school and that’s when you start losing your kids but I never did. It was just everything to me to be a teacher at their high school with them.

She was my youngest. Her dad remarried and they had a baby and she got to be a big sister. That meant a lot to her. She was a great big sister.”

Martin asked a specific poem be read at Monday’s candlelight vigil at Brusly High School. Her goal was to send a message via the poem to Maggie’s friends of how to approach this difficult chapter without her. (poem below)

“I don’t want people to remember this. I want people to remember the goofy, funny, kind and brilliant Maggie. I want them to laugh and smile and remember the light that she was. I want that part of her to carry forward. I want people to learn lessons from this. I want them to never leave their homes without saying they love their parents. I want them to live their lives with the kind of zest she had.”

Martin said since the tragedy, the entire family has been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people.

“I grew up in Baton Rouge so we may have help from maybe a family member or neighbor. This is kind of new to me. I had a neighbor practically steal my laundry to do it and bring it back clean. This is genuine of, ‘What can we do to help.’ I had someone say they were sending someone to come clean my house for me. It’s just unfathomable to see how the entire town is coming together. It’s what a small town is and supposed to be. It’s overwhelming for both my husband and I. That’s what makes Brusly High such an amazing community. That’s how we’re going to get through this as a community and that’s how we will heal,” said Martin.

Rio Cantina in Brusly was one restaurant whose owner said a portion of all sales on Monday & Tuesday, Jan. 2nd and 3rd, would be going to the Dunn/Martini & Gill families.

“Rio closed their doors at 7pm Monday because they ran out of food. The owner fed the entire trauma team at Our Lady of the Lake because he just wanted to take care of the people taking care of Liam. The things this town is doing, all of them, it’s felt and we appreciate it. We are so thankful. My husband and I are so overwhelmed by it. It’s nothing we have ever experienced. We’re going to be those people from now on. I didn’t know people could actually be like this. A lot of the people who have reached out, it’s so much positivity. That positivity and all the prayers, Liam needs it. It has to work. Our entire community needs it,” said Martin.

Several other businesses in West Baton Rouge are also joining in to help raise money for the families.

Plus, many have been asking how to help Liam. The families are asking for people to go help restock the shelves of the blood he is using. Make sure to say you’re donating on behalf of Liam Dunn because that gives them credit on their medical bill.

“The Lake told us on any given day, they may have about 30 or so donations. On Tuesday, they had over 400 donations just in Liam’s name. She said that’s the most she’s ever seen in a single day,” said Martin. “To me, that means that people actually care and they’re looking for ways to help but it also means, because of my son, 400 or so other people will be helped. That’s just one way we can make something positive come out of something so awful.”

Martin said no amount of money will bring back her daughter. Instead, any donations they receive and at the funeral, in lieu of flowers, they will ask people to donate and will credit the money to a non-profit in Maggie’s memory.

Martin closed by saying long-term, she wants some kind of law on the books to avoid this from ever happening again.  

“What I would like to see is some type of legislation come out of this. That’s what us and the Gill family are going to pursue. I want something positive to come out of this. I want this to mean something,” said Martin.

POEM

Death is nothing at all. 
It does not count. 
I have only slipped away into the next room. 
Nothing has happened. 

Everything remains exactly as it was. 
I am I, and you are you, 
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. 
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. 

Call me by the old familiar name. 
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. 
Put no difference into your tone. 

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. 
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. 
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

Life means all that it ever meant. 
It is the same as it ever was. 
There is absolute and unbroken continuity. 
What is this death but a negligible accident? 

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? 
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 
somewhere very near, 
just round the corner. 

All is well. 
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. 
One brief moment and all will be as it was before. 
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

About Kiran Chawla 1141 Articles
I'm an Emmy & Murrow Award winning investigative reporter who simply loves my job!

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