Mom takes hit-and-run case into her own hands

Brandon Gentry
Brandon Gentry

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Brandon Gentry, 26, died last August, found on the side of Pickettville Road on the Westside.

He'd been walking home from a night out when he was hit by a car that left the scene.

Now, with no new leads in the case and several more unsolved hit-and-runs since Gentry's, his mother has decided to do something about it. Her biggest fear is that her son's case will only get colder.

Carol Kent is overwhelmed by how many hit-and-runs Jacksonville police are investigating, but also homicides in general. So that's why she's turning to the Internet.

"He has a 3-year-old daughter, Aleena, who feels that when she gets a little older, she's going to get a ladder and go up to heaven to bring her daddy back home," Kent said.

Kent said life without her son has been difficult, made harder by knowing no one has been arrested in the case.

"To all those who've lost lives, the fight doesn't just stop when they take their last breath. The fight begins," Kent said.

For Kent, the fight is about putting a plan to action. By organizing a donation page, she hopes to raise money for a private investigator in the case.

"As time goes on, this may turn into a cold case, and that's what I'm trying to avoid," Kent said.

Kent's push for new leads in her son's case comes as Gov. Rick Scott gets ready to sign one of the state's toughest laws against hit-and-run drivers. The bill calls for a mandatory sentence of four years for drivers who leave the scenes of accidents involving deaths.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, so far this year there have been more than 23,000 hit-and-run accidents in the state, 2,100 in northeast Florida counties alone. Those include crashes with pedestrians and other vehicles.

"Hit-and-run crashes are very important, not only to our area, but also statewide," said Sgt. Dylan Bryan.

Bryan said although those numbers are lower than this time in previous years, they're still alarming, and drivers need to realize they're better off staying put.

"Fault in a traffic crash just may be a civil penalty. For example, just a citation. However, if you leave the scene, then it falls into a different category. It's now a criminal offense," Bryan said.

"I'm going to stay above and beyond and do whatever I feel I can to fight for justice for him and his girls," Kent said.

That's a fact she wants people to remember. She also hopes and prays her new online mission will pay off. Until that day comes, she's not giving up.

A $3,000 reward is being offered in this case. Anyone with any information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.

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