• New hit-and-run law not strict enough for local woman

    By: Lorena Inclán


    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A new law on the books in Florida means drivers who leave the scene of a crash that killed or injured someone could face stiffer penalties.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed the legislation into law Tuesday. It's now giving many hope that some tragedies can be prevented.

    It's been seven months since 15-year-old Haley Smith was struck and killed while walking on Kenton Morrison Road. The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office is still looking for the driver that hit her. 

    Haley's mom, Jo-Lee Manning, recently got her daughter's name tattooed on her wrist.

    "People ask about it and it's another way to get her story out there," said Manning.

    According to Manning, one reason the driver may have left is because there was no incentive to stay.

    "If they have the penalty then they're more inclined to stay, and do the right thing and give the person assistance," said Manning.

    The new law, called the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, named after a Miami cyclist who was killed two years ago in a hit-and-run, makes the minimum mandatory penalty for leaving the scene of a crash where a person was killed four years in prison. 

    Manning thinks it's a step in the right direction but thinks it should be stricter.

    "At least seven years minimum," said Manning.

    As for the driver in her daughter's case, she still hopes he or she will do the right thing, despite all the time that has gone by.

    "I think at this point they're scared. They're scared of what's going to happen to them. I think they've kind of missed that magic window where they could come back and everything would be OK," said Manning. "I know it's scary but we just need some closure for Haley."

    According to Manning, there is still more evidence that needs to be processed but leads are still coming in. If you have any information that could help police call Northeast Florida CrimeStoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS.

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