Mother keeps daughter’s memory alive through road cleanups, memorials

A memorial off Salem Parkway for Trinity Watt, Madison Capobianco and Makayla Tryon who were killed by a drunk driver in June 2019. (Courtesy/ Tammy Watt)

At the intersection of Salem Parkway and Cherry Avenue Northeast three wooden crosses sit behind a fence, serving as a remembrance of the three teens killed by a drunk driver in June 2019.

Some days Tammy Watt, the mother of one of the teens, wakes up and feels her daughter, Trinity, is far away. So, she does something productive like weeding a tree near the memorial, picking up fresh flowers to put on her grave or cleaning the stretch of highway where she died.

“I feel closer to my daughter,” Watt said.

Seeking to keep her daughter’s name alive, she organized a third Adopt-A-Highway cleanup event in September that’ll include signs to be installed along the road that say the girls’ names on them.

Watt wants the Adopt-A-Highway and “don’t drink and drive” signs to be a daily reminder for drivers and serve as a way for passersby to keep seeing her daughter’s name even though she’s gone.

Trinity Watt, Madison Capobianco and Makayla Tryon died after a drunk driver hit the passenger side of the car Watt was driving, pushing them 600 feet. They died at the scene.

The three girls were former students at Roberts High School, Salem-Keizer’s alternative high school. Tryon earned a GED from the district’s downtown learning center during the 2016-17 school year.

Capobiano and Watt attended classes through a program on the Chemeketa Community College campus.

On May 14, the driver, 26-year-old Juan Carlos Rodriguez Palacios, was convicted of three counts of manslaughter, two counts of third-degree assault and driving under the influence and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

On June 2, Watt organized a candlelight vigil on the year anniversary of the crash.

“I have to wake up every day and live without her,” Watt said. “It’s a nightmare nobody else should have to do this.”

Watt wants to create a nonprofit to help others learn things she picked up after losing a death from a crash with a drunk driver.  She hopes to help parents facing a similar tragedy learn how to navigate the legal system. She also wants to organize several road cleanups a year in memory of the girls.

“I’m looking forward to creating a calendar and choosing days that work for cleanup and trying to get a community of people to come and help,” she said.

Watt said that in August a man tore down the signs put up along a fence in memorial of the girls, saying he was trying to clean up the sidewalks.

“It’s been nerve wracking to say the least. In the beginning when he was doing it, we didn’t know why. Our kids are dead and then he just ripped down the memorials,” she said. “We could go there and get comfort. He ripped our comfort right from us.”

Watt said he hasn’t been back to disturb the memorials.

Thinking of her daughter on Sept. 29, Watt turned to Facebook and wrote: “I am not ready for them to be forgotten. I don’t know if I am just doing all of this for myself and I’m asking you all get on board my crazy train. Because I’m so devastated. I miss Trinity’s existence and everyone that was in her life that made up Trinity’s world. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”

News tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell by email at [email protected].

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