Police search for driver who struck, killed teen

Small, possibly gold pickup truck sought

Author: Erica Rakow, General assignment reporter, erakow@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Campbell, General assignment reporter, ecampbell@wjxt.com
Published On: Nov 18 2013 06:21:53 AM EST   Updated On: Nov 18 2013 11:44:10 PM EST
Haley Smith
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -

Investigators with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office are still searching for a driver whose small pickup truck struck and killed a 15-year-old girl this weekend and never stopped.

Haley Smith was walking with friends on Kenton Morrison Road around 8:30 p.m. Saturday when a driver plowed into her and kept driving.

Witnesses described the hit and run accident that killed Smith to 911 operator moments after the teen was left for dead by the hit-and-run driver.

“I need help! Right here by Publix up on 4 Mile Road. Please, a person just got hit by a car,” said one caller. “4 Mile Road. Right at the light! Right now, please!”

Many of the 9-1-1 calls that took place happened just moments after Smith was hit.

“She’s not moving! We need help now!” said another caller.

“They hit her,” said a witness. “They know he hit her, they took a left. Yes, they hit 4 Mile and took a left for a few minutes. He knew what he did and he took off.”

One caller described a small truck, possibly a gold color, hit the sophomore. Another caller gives the 911 operator a key piece of information.

“You couldn’t tell if it was a car or a truck?” asked the operator.

“Uh, I can’t tell. There’s a mirror. It knocked his mirror, his mirror laying around. It’s, oh my god...” said the caller.

“We want to pin point that, we want to confirm that and that’s why our investigators are reaching out to all of the different manufacturers, showing them pictures of all the components that we have to determine what vehicle, what year, what make, what model that vehicle came from,” said St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Commander Chuck Mulligan.

Officials said the vehicle was last seen driving on Holmes Boulevard.

"I would really like for whoever hit Haley to come forward and turn themselves in, or if anyone knows any information, if they would contact them so we could get some closure from Haley," said Jo-Lee Manning, Haley's mother.

Manning and all who knew Haley are in shock she's gone.

"There's nothing that can bring Haley Bug back," said Bill Manning, Haley's stepfather. "I had nine years with this baby. She's all I had. I watched her grow up, and it's hard to let go."

LISTEN TO 911 CALLS:  Call No. 1 | Call No. 2

Many people have posted their condolences on social media after hearing about what happened. Haley's friend, Megan Strickland, said they were friends for seven years. She wrote, "my bestfriend died i love u my sister haley smith [sic]."

The county put up a permanent memorial sign at the spot where Haley was killed to remember her. The sign reads, "In Memory of Haley N. Smith Drive Safely."

Her family put balloons on it, and they're so thankful for the sign, hoping whoever killed Haley will ride by it and be reminded of what that person did.Hit-and-run memorial

"We're not angry, we're just hurt," Jo-Lee Manning said. "We don't understand how someone could injure someone so severely and then just leave and leave them there."

"Maybe somebody knows something who rides by, and now they'll know Haley and remember that she was killed by a careless driver, and I hope her memory keeps rolling," Bill Manning said.

Haley's cousin Brittany Szczepanik said she is exactly three years older than Haley, and they shared everything together.

"I definitely would never let anything happen to her unless it was in my hands only," she said. "We grew up together. I watched her grow, and it's hard to believe I'm not going to see her grow anymore. I never expected I would bury my 15-year-old little cousin."

Haley was a sophomore at St. Augustine High School. The St. Johns County School District released a statement saying, "We will have our crisis team at St. Augustine High School as long as needed to support students and staff. We are certainly distressed about this tragedy."

"I just wish whoever done this would just let us all know," Bill Manning said. "This is hard if you've never had it happen to you. You really need to think twice about your kids, 'cause it really hurts."

Visitation for Haley will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Moultrie Baptist Church in St. Augustine, followed by her funeral at 11 a.m. It is open to the public.

The hit-and-run comes just a little more than a week after 43-year-old Randy Miller was hit and killed while riding his bike on State Road 16. That driver didn't stop either.

Anyone with any information on either of these cases should call Crime Stoppers at 888-277-TIPS.