• Hunter Cope: Trial in 12-year-old Jacksonville DUI manslaughter case begins

    By: Bridgette Matter , Action News Jax


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The crash: 

    March 2017, 12-year-old Hunter Cope was walking to Mayport Middle School when he was struck at the busy intersection of Wonderwood Drive and A1A.

    It happened around 8:30 in the morning. Hunter died shortly after in the hospital.

    Cope crossed against the crosswalk. Police said Kelley Permenter was driving and hit him going through the light.


    She stayed on scene, and police said Permenter had cocaine and alcohol in her system at the time of the crash.

    Permenter was charged with DUI manslaughter. 

    Hunter's death prompted a lower speed limit on Mayport Road. The speed limit was lowered from 45 mph to 40 mph.

    Trial and Testimony: 

    Close to three years after the crash, Permenter was set for trial.

    On day one of testimony several eyewitnesses took the stand and described the moment Hunter was struck.

    Carrie Herbison testified Permenter hit her car at a food store, but left the scene, shortly after Cope would be hit. 

    Multiple people that day testified they saw Hunter's body thrown across the intersection or drug by Permenter's SUV.  

    "All I saw was a flash of black and I saw one of the boys was struck and his body flew across the entire intersection," said a woman driving home after dropping her children off at school.

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    Another eyewitness described how Permenter looked when she got out of her SUV: "She stumbled out of the car she started to walk towards the child Hunter and she kind of doubled over realizing what she had done."

    Prosecutors said four hours after the crash, Permenter's blood alcohol level was .096, which is over the legal limit. 

    The defense said Permenter should not have been on the road and made a mistake. They also said Cope crossed against the light. 

    Testimony will resume Wednesday and should wrap up by Friday. 

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