Janice Nicolich

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Janice Winblad Nicolich
Janice Nicolich on May 27, 1961.jpg
Nicolich on May 27, 1961
Born Janice Ann Winblad
(1935-08-09)August 9, 1935
Astoria, New York
Died June 28, 1996(1996-06-28) (aged 60)
Sidney, Nebraska
Nationality American
Occupation Housewife
Spouse(s) Joseph Anthony Nicolich
Parent(s) Anthony LeRoy Winblad (1912–1970)
Maria W. Zorovich (1912–1993)

Janice Winblad Nicolich (August 9, 1935 – June 28, 1996) was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver.[1][2] 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.[3] The story was part of an The Oprah Winfrey Show and the book The Road To Forgiveness: Hearts Shattered by Tragedy, Transformed by Love.[4][5]

Birth and marriage[edit]

Janice Ann Winblad was born on August 9, 1935 in Astoria, New York to Anthony LeRoy Winblad (1912–1970) and Maria W. Zorovich (1912–1993). Janice Winblad married Joseph Anthony Nicolich on May 15, 1954 in Astoria.[4] She was Roman Catholic for most of her adult life and raised her children Catholic. Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s she became a member of the Bethlehem Assemblies of God Church in Valley Stream, New York.

Drive to Salt Lake City[edit]

Joseph and Janice Nicolich 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 & Country van. Joe was driving, his wife was in the passenger seat, and their granddaughter, Robyn Griffiths (1985–1996), was in the rear seat. It was raining and Joe saw a car stationary at the side of the road with its flashers on. He was pulling onto the shoulder and slowed down to approximately 25 miles per hour (40 km/h) when he was hit from behind.[4][6] Robyn Griffiths and Janice Winblad Nicolich were killed.


The trial court sentenced Verma Harrison, the drunk driver, to five 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.[4][7] The light sentence was appealed by Joe Nicolich and was heard by the Nebraska State Court of Appeals which found the sentence to be excessively lenient.[8] On January 22, 1999 the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the original sentencing.[3]


Nicolich's story was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1998[6] and in The Road To Forgiveness: Hearts Shattered by Tragedy, Transformed by Love, published in 2001.[4]


  1. ^ "MADD's Vigil Remembers Victims". New York Newsday. December 8, 1997. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  2. ^ "Bill and Cindy Griffiths: The Road to Forgiveness". The Hour of Power. Archived from the original on 2003-10-03. Retrieved 2008-05-25. 
  3. ^ a b "Nebraska Supreme Court S-97-1152". Nebraska Supreme Court. Retrieved 2007-08-26. The appellee, Verma J. Harrison, was convicted of two counts of motor vehicle homicide and sentenced to consecutive terms of probation by the district court. The Nebraska Court of Appeals reversed Harrison's sentences as excessively lenient, pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2322 (Reissue 1995), and imposed consecutive sentences of imprisonment. State v. Harrison, 7 Neb. App. 350, 583 N.W.2d 62 (1998). We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing probation. ... [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d e William Garonwy Griffiths and Cynthia Ann Nicolich (2001). The Road To Forgiveness: Hearts Shattered by Tragedy, Transformed by Love. Thomas Nelson. ISBN 0-7852-6691-7. 
  5. ^ "Stories of Forgiveness: Cindy Griffiths & Verma Harvey". The Oprah Winfrey Show. October 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  6. ^ a b "Forgiveness". The Oprah Winfrey Show. October 1998. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-08-21. 
  7. ^ "DWI Convict Keeps Her Freedom". New York Newsday. January 24, 1999. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  8. ^ "Nebraska State Court of Appeals A-97-1152". Nebraska State Court of Appeals. Retrieved 2007-08-26. The State brings this appeal to this court pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2320 (Reissue 1995). The State claims that the two sentences of consecutive 5-year probations imposed by the district court for Cheyenne County on Verma J. Harrison as a result of her convictions for two counts of motor vehicle homicide in connection with an accident following a night of drinking is excessively lenient. For the reasons recited below, we conclude that the sentences are excessively lenient, vacate the sentences, and remand the cause for imposition of two sentences of 30 months' to 5 years' incarceration to be served consecutively, pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2323(l)(a) (Reissue 1995).