MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – The mother of a 14-year-old boy who died in a tree trimming accident nearly two years ago spoke out about her son Monday.
The owner of the tree trimming company from Palatka will spend 15 years in prison for the teen's death. Jonathan Wilkes pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a child last week.
Legally in Florida you have to be 18 years old to work for a tree trimming service and go up trees to cut them down. In this case, the child, Blake Bryant, was 14 years old. Wilkes told investigators he thought the boy was 16, but it still would have been against the law.
Blake was working at a home on Scenic Drive in Middleburg. He climbed a tree on the property and was cutting off a section of the tree with a chain saw when he accidentally cut through his safety harnesses and fell to his death.
A year and a half later his mom Candy Selph is still struggling with the loss.
"Fifteen years hardly seems like enough for what he took from me," Selph said. "His ashes are on the mantel. I talk to his picture every day."
Selph, who said she knew Wilkes for 20 years, was out of town when her son died. She had no idea her son was climbing to the top of trees to cut them.
"I knew that he was working but I thought he was dragging limbs, loading trailers (and) cutting up on the ground," Selph said. "I didn't know he was climbing. Why would you send a 14-year-old in a tree with a chainsaw?"
Selph and her two surviving children continue to struggle day after day knowing Blake will never come back, and the man responsible for the death will spend 15 years behind bars.
"I don't understand how he could be so careless. I don't know. It sucks," she said.
Detectives were told the teen was helping out on the project that day but did not normally work for the company.