Neither Neiman nor the 10-year-old neighbor boy who had accompanied her and her daughter to the bank on Dec. 8, 2011, would recall hearing any alert, according to a police report.
Sydnee was carrying her purple plastic piggy bank and account book, so she could deposit $5 from her weekly allowance. After the transaction, Neiman slid behind the wheel and waited for the children. She heard the door slam, then saw the boy sitting on the right side of the back seat as she put the car into reverse.
She figured Sydnee was seated behind the driver’s seat. Instead, the boy had gotten in first, telling Sydnee to go around and get in from the left side. He would later tell a police investigator that the girl had dropped her piggy bank on her way around the SUV.
Even if she were upright, at 4 feet, 3 inches tall, Sydnee would have been practically invisible through the rear window, the bottom edge of which was a few inches taller than she was.
As the first anniversary of her daughter’s death passed, Neiman hoped that sharing her story might spare other parents from enduring the pain she feels every day.
She tortures herself by replaying a conversation she had with Sydnee the summer before she died. Her daughter always had taken her heart condition, a congenital defect, in stride. She never complained or showed fear, despite her many surgeries.
Then one night Sydnee started crying, and she wouldn’t tell her mother what was troubling her until the next morning.
‘‘She said, ‘I don’t want to die, Mom,’ and when she died, that’s all I could think about. She didn’t want to die,’’ Neiman says. ‘‘She survived four open heart surgeries. If God had taken her at that time, I could accept it. But who could take her with her being hit by my car? And my hitting her?’’
Associated Press writer Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., contributed to this story.