William Tinkham celebrates his third birthday in March. Monica Kennie courtesy photo

The 13-year-old who was behind the wheel of an SUV that killed a 3-year-old boy in Gorham last week had spent the afternoon with the boy’s family, but suddenly took control of the vehicle when they made a brief stop at home, the boy’s grandmother said.

William Tinkham was struck and killed on Tamarac Circle on April 14 shortly after he arrived home with his mother, his 8-year-old brother, and the 13-year-old neighbor whom his mother, Virginia Tinkham, had befriended, said Monica Kennie, 48, of Sebago, the boy’s maternal grandmother.

“My daughter was pounding on the window,” Kennie said. “It happened so fast. (She) was screaming for her to get out of the vehicle.”

Kennie was not present when the crash occurred, but relayed what her daughter told her she saw. Virginia Tinkham was too overcome with grief to be interviewed, Kennie said.

It’s still unclear why the girl got behind the wheel of the SUV. Police have not commented on the case as they continue to investigate, and no one has been charged.

The bizarre incident unfolded when Virginia Tinkham parked on the grass off the narrow cul-du-sac next to her home, ran inside with her 8-year-old son to drop off jiu-jitsu equipment and left the car running, Kennie said. Guy Tinkham, the boy’s father and Virginia’s husband, was minutes away from home; the family had planned to meet up to go grocery shopping together, Kennie said.

Virginia and Guy Tinkham in September 2020 with their sons, William, then 2 years old, left, and Guy, 8.  Monica Kennie courtesy photo

But before Virginia Tinkham returned to the vehicle, the 13-year-old girl let William out of his car seat in the rear of the SUV and then got in the driver’s seat, locked herself in the car, put the Black SUV in reverse and rolled backward, said Kennie, 48, of Sebago. As William’s mother pounded on the window, her husband, Guy Tinkham, arrived home and watched as his son was knocked down by the car.

The narrative from Kennie aligns with a brief description contained in a preliminary crash report. Gorham police did not respond to a request for an interview Tuesday, and said previously they would not comment because the case was still being investigated.

The crash report, a public record, was obtained through a statewide crash database accessible to the public. It does not contain any conclusions about whether the 13-year-old would be charged, but police described her as driving in an “erratic, reckless, careless, negligent or aggressive manner.”

“While backing, the driver of (the SUV) collided with a pedestrian who was playing in the roadway,” Sgt. Todd Meslin wrote in the crash report.

Blood tests for drugs and alcohol remain pending, the report said.

Kennie said both of William’s parents witnessed the crash and are overcome with grief. Kennie is raising money to pay for the boy’s funeral, and to move away from the mobile home development where they witnessed their son’s death, and find another car that is not associated with the tragedy. So far, the family’s GoFundMe account had raised more than $16,000 as of Tuesday evening.

The family is now struggling to function day-to-day as they reel from the loss, Kennie said.

Kennie said she will remember her grandson for how loving and happy he was, and the joy he brought to his parents. He was a quiet baby, she said, who quickly slept through the night after he was born.

Kennie said William always demanded extra hugs and kisses before bed each night, and sometimes would stop what he was doing to tell his mother that he loved her.

A recent photo of William Tinkham, 3. Monica Kennie courtesy photo

He looked up to his older brother, and tried to stick up for him when they played with other children in the neighborhood.

“If William thought his brother was in trouble, he would be right there in the middle to tell you different,” Kennie said. “They were inseparable.”

The family loved to take day trips to Mackworth Island in Falmouth and Smiling Hill Farm in Westbrook.

William especially enjoyed taking trips in his dad’s car, which had an amped-up stereo system. Father and son liked to sing along together as they drove, Kennie said.

On his third birthday in March, William got his first bicycle with training wheels, and was close to mastering how to pedal, Kennie said.

Plans for a public memorial service are still in the works.

Kennie said she does not know whether police plan to charge the 13-year-old, but she thinks the girl should face some consequences.

“I think as humans we all need to be accountable for our actions, whether you’re 13 or 30,” Kennie said. “Right now all (my daughter and son-in-law) want is their baby back. They can’t process anything further.”

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