Janice Ann Winblad
Winblad-Janice 08
Sex: Female
Birth: August 9, 1935 (1935-08-09) (82 years ago)
Astoria, New York
Death: June 28, 1996 (age 60), 7:30 am
21 years ago
Interstate 80
near Sidney, Nebraska
Father: Anthony LeRoy Winblad (1912-1970)
Mother: Ann Maria W. Zorovich (1912-1993)
Spouse/Partner: Joseph Anthony Nicolich I
Marriage: May 15, 1954 (age 18)
63 years ago
Astoria, New York

Janice Ann Winblad (1935-1996) was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. During the trial Janice's daughter wrote that she had forgiven the drunk driver and urged that the court do likewise. The subsequent court case led to a Nebraska Supreme Court decision on the issue of leniency in drunk driving deaths. The story was part of an Oprah Winfrey show and the book The Road To Forgiveness: Hearts Shattered by Tragedy, Transformed by Love (b. August 09, 1935, Astoria, Queens, Queens County, New York City, Long Island, New York, USA - d. June 28, 1996, 7:30 am, Interstate 80, near Sidney, Cheyenne County, Nebraska, USA) Social Security Number 115265875.



Janice married Joseph Anthony Nicolich I on May 15, 1954 in Astoria.

Drive to Salt Lake CityEdit

Joseph Nicolich and his wife, Janice Winblad (1935-1996) were on their way to their son's wedding in Salt Lake City, Utah on June 28, 1996. They were on Interstate 80, near Sidney, Nebraska in their Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. Joe was driving, his wife was in the passenger seat, and their grand-daughter, Robyn Griffiths (1984-1996) was in the first rear seat.  They passed what appeared to be a stranded motorist on the shoulder of the road: a car containing a woman and several young children.   Janice suggested they pull over to offer assistance.  Joe drove onto the westbound shoulder and slowed down to approximately 25 miles per hour when he was hit from behind.

The car crashEdit

Verma Harrison (now Verma Harvey) was driving a GMC van also on the westbound Interstate 80,  behind Joe and Janice and followed them onto the shoulder at about 65 to 75 miles per hour and collided with them. The impact killed both Robyn and Janice. The Nebraska State Patrol officer that came to the scene determined that Verma Harrison was intoxicated at the time of the collision. Verma said that she had been drinking in Ogallala, Nebraska until about 3 in the morning, had slept a couple of hours in a motel, and was in a hurry to get to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Six motels located at the Ogallala interchange were contacted, and none had any record of Harrison registered.

Verma Harrison Edit

Harrison was charged with two counts of motor vehicle homicide, for allegedly causing the deaths of Janice and Robyn, unintentionally, while engaged in the operation of a motor vehicle. Harrison pled guilty in court. Verma's life had been filled with abuse. Her father, who had been a uranium miner, died from lung cancer in 1971. After her father died, her mother had an affair with Harrison's married uncle, who also molested Harrison and her sister. The community later discovered her mother's adulterous relationship, and their family became outcasts. She married an alcoholic in 1988 when she became pregnant, and she was divorced in 1994. Two of Harrison's children were from this marriage. The other child was the result of a relationship with a man who physically abused Harrison. Harrison was 32 years old at the time of sentencing. She was convicted of public intoxication in 1994 and driving under the influence of alcohol in 1995. Verma participated in an 8-hour alcohol abuse course as a result of her 1995 conviction, but did not complete it. She had been fined for child neglect in 1992, which was also attributable to alcohol. She began drinking regularly at age 15 and was drinking twice a week by her senior year in high school.

Joseph Nicolich testifiesEdit

Joseph Nicolich testified on behalf of the State:

I would like to say that I hope Verma Harrison receives the maximum jail time or prison time with no good time off for good behavior or probation. I would think that now Mrs. Harrison is trying to show the authorities how good she can morally and religiously be. I feel she would shake hands or marry the devil if it meant her getting off the charges against her.

The letterEdit

The court also had a handwritten note from Cindy Griffiths, Robyn's mother:

October 7, 1997, Dear Justice Knapp, My name is Cindy Griffiths, my husband's name is Bill Griffiths. We are the parents of Robyn Griffiths and the daughter and son-in-law of Janice Nicolich. Robyn and my mother, Janice, were brought to their deaths while driving through Sidney on June 28, 1996. My father, Joe Nicolich, was there too, as he was the driver. I am writing to you today in regards to Verma Harrison, who was driving the vehicle that crashed into my parents' car on I-80. I understand her sentencing date is approaching quickly, and we wanted to let you know our thoughts. It's a little hard for me to know where to begin. To try to describe the agony of losing our precious daughter and mother is not something we can easily do, for the pain runs so very deep. It's beyond anything we've ever experienced. It's as though a major tidal wave -- a tsunami -- has crashed down upon us and sent us tumbling and spinning in blackness -- agonizing blackness. I described it at one point to someone as being tortured unceasingly without the repose of death. I prayed and asked God a number of times to just please, please take my entire family in our sleep so we wouldn't have to live the nightmare anymore. Obviously my prayers have gone unanswered -- this time -- and for good reasons, I'm confident. My daughter, Robyn, who was born on my birthday nearly 13 years ago, is the second of six children and the first of two girls (my youngest, now five yrs. old, is a girl). She was -- it is difficult to write "was" when referring to her -- but she was a very special young lady who graced the lives of many with her gentle, caring spirit. She was mature for her 11 1/2 years: helping with household duties and with caring for the little ones. She'd intervene when her brothers didn't get along and she helped to create an atmosphere of peace. She'd offer comfort to a sibling who felt misunderstood. And she'd be found every day playing mom to her baby sister (who was three at time we lost Robyn) by playing with her, reading her stories and the like. In our family of six children we teach the older ones to help with and care for the younger children. Robyn rarely complained. In fact, there was little else she preferred over spending time with her baby sister. All of her siblings loved her dearly, so naturally they suffer -- unnaturally. We suffer because we love. I've told them this. It hurts so much because we loved so much, and we still love so much. The shock of my daughter's sudden and violent death has reverberated throughout our families and our local and church communities. Robyn had several close friendships, but we've learned that a large number of girls considered her to be their "best" friend. She had a very loving way about her that caused her to seek to include others, especially the ones that were shy or on the peripheral. And Robyn and I were very close. I am not going to describe my relationship with her except to say that I don't think it gets any better than what we had. I have to admit that I am tempted to go on and on about this child because I cannot see her sweet freckled face any longer. My eyes are now denied their maternal right to watch the sunlight dance on the blond highlights of her brown hair, or the wind tease her flowing locks. I cannot feel her in my arms any longer, yet I remember her soft skin and wonderful hugs. I do not hear her playing with her brothers and sister, and our piano seems to sit in a sullen silence, wondering why her gentle songs have ceased. Where other moms can talk to their 12 year old daughters, I now can only talk about my memories of mine. And then there's my mother. We were very close. She was not just my mother, but my friend. Always, it seemed, giving, loving, and laughing. She was wonderful to me and my brothers and our children. She had many interests and even had a special "something" for Native Americans. She loved their art (definitely their jewelry) and sympathized with their history. I find it interesting that Verma Harrison is 100% Native American. Well, I felt the need to share these things. Now, I want to focus on Ms. Harrison. Although we despise what has happened at the hands of Verma Harrison, we do not despise the person, Verma Harrison. I cannot remember if it was the first or second day when we learned the driver had been intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of 1.9, but I remember thinking, "My God, what happened to this woman that left her with no sense of self-worth, self-respect, self esteem? What happened in her life that caused her to think so irrationally and behave so irresponsibly? What has driven her?" I felt from the beginning that she probably had a lot of problems and needed a lot of help. I knew I was going to write to her to see if I could help. Knowing that God hears when we call upon Him in truth, I fasted and prayed for three days asking God to give me insight into Ms. Harrison, so that my letter would be effective. Early in November of '96 I wrote to her to tell her that I didn't hate her, but wanted to help her. I explained to her my reasons for my perspective and my forgiveness; for they are found in the Bible and are the fruits of a relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ, and by faith in His word. Ms. Harrison wrote back to me -- to all of our family. She wrote a very long letter. A letter which confirmed my impressions of her while writing my first letter to her. Indeed, she suffered much abuse at the hands of irresponsible adults during her growing up years, including sexual and alcohol-influenced abuse. Now, I am a believer that we need to take responsibility for our actions. We need to make choices for good or for evil, for life or for death, in all our daily actions. There are many people, I think, who love to blame their parents, their siblings, their teachers, babysitters or the lack of enough candy in their Christmas stockings for their depressions and woes in life. I've been one of them. These folks need to get a grip -- it's true -- and start making lemonade with those lemons. However, they need to be loved and helped along the way to hopefully reach that point. And then they still need to be loved. And I believe love never fails. Some have said we are foolish for taking this stand. Some say she's carefully scheming with her lawyer to pull our heartstrings for the very purpose of my writing these things to you. Yet I say 1) it was I who wrote to her first, 2) we've made contact twice with her pastor. She's been in attendance since the crash at a local church, and we've contacted the pastor to discuss her actions and faith, and 3) even if her story weren't true, I would still have the satisfaction of knowing that I did the right thing in case it were true. In her letters, I've received and sent several now, she has expressed remorse for what she's done. I think it is not only remorse for the consequences of whatever might be coming to her, but remorse over the injury she has caused this family. We believe it is real. We believe she is waking up and trying to make steps towards a better way of living. As I stated previously, we've made contact with her pastor who confirmed what she had written to us and more. What we've learned is that she's been in counseling 2 x per week at the minimum, she's been in an intensive discipleship/rehab program with a group called Overcomers Outreach, which is an offshoot of their church, and she has been actively involved in reaching out to others who have addictions, telling them of her life, telling them what happened on June 28, 1996, telling them of love and forgiveness and healing and hope. We don't want any of this to end! She wrote and told me how she was about to graduate college with a degree in business, but wants to change that so she can counsel women. She believes she has something to give now. We want her to have the chance to give it away. We've been warned that those awaiting sentencing are on their best behavior because they are very scared. And while we can believe that, we still have reason to believe that Ms. Harrison's rehabilitation is genuine, and that her desire to counsel other women who are suffering with the abuses she's received or inflicted upon herself, is real, too. I've attended several Mothers Against Drunk Driving meetings. They did not seem to like my point of view, in fact some began to get argumentative. When I suggested that if she's telling the truth, she may be able to reach other alcoholics before they kill someone's loved one, the folks at the meeting saw that maybe some good could come out of it. Justice Knapp, there's been an awful lot of pain and suffering: my husband and me and our children, my brothers and their families, my dear father, who's been a very broken, hurting man, and the many, many others in Janice's and Robyn's spheres of influence. If any good could come of this -- we are all for it. We want to see Ms. Harrison have the chance to make good with her life and the lives of her children, and we want to see her reach out to help heal those hurting women she calls "my people." I don't claim to know all she needs right now. She broke the laws of our land and I don't know what's in store for her because of this. We want you to know that we consider her an ally and not an enemy if she is going to pursue what is good and right. If she does this, she'll be fighting the true enemy with us -- which is evil itself. And that battle is won one heart at a time. Let her influence others so that perhaps even one other mother and father, daughter & son-in-law will not have to weep the bitter tears we've wept. Thank you very much for letting us have our say and for considering our thoughts. Respectfully, Cindy Griffiths [and] William Goronwy Griffiths.

The sentenceEdit

The trial court sentenced Harrison to 5 years probation on each count; the sentences were to be served consecutively. The conditions of probation subjected Harrison to random drug and alcohol testing, home visitations, and a treatment referral.

State CourtEdit

The light sentence was appealed by Joe Nicolich and was heard by the Nebraska State Court of Appeals and the court upheld the original sentencing. On January 22, 1999 the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the original sentencing.


  • 1935 Birth in Astoria, New York on August 9th
  • 1954 Marriage to Joseph Anthony Nicolich on May 15th
  • 1970 Death of Anthony LeRoy Winblad, her father
  • 1996 Death in Nebraska in car accident on June 28th
  • 1998 Nebraska State Court of Appeals case filed on July 14, 1998
  • 2001The Road To Forgiveness: Hearts Shattered by Tragedy, Transformed by Love published by Thomas Nelson Publishing, May 2001
  • 1998 Oprah Winfrey Show
  • 1999 Nebraska Supreme Court upholds decision on January 22, 1999

External linksEdit


Janice Ann Winblad (1935-1996)'s ancestors in three generations
Janice Ann Winblad (1935-1996) Father:
Anthony LeRoy Winblad (1912-1970)
Paternal Grandfather:
Anton Julius Winblad II (1886-1975)
Paternal Great-grandfather:
John Edward Winblad I (1856-1914)
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Salmine Sophia Severine Pedersen (1862-1914)
Paternal Grandmother:
Eva Ariel Lattin (1892-1939)
Paternal Great-grandfather:
Jarvis Andrew Lattin (1853-1941)
Paternal Great-grandmother:
Mary Jane Puckett (1854-1927)
Ann Maria Zorovich (1912-1993)
Maternal Grandfather:
Dominick Zorovich of Croatia
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:
Maternal Grandmother:
Antoinette X of Croatia
Maternal Great-grandfather:
Maternal Great-grandmother:


This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Janice Ann Winblad. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.

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