Mother of teen killed in 2013 hit-and-run desires answers, not vengeance

3 years after her death, community gathers at roadside vigil for Haley Smith, 15

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – As loved ones of a St. Augustine teenager killed in a 2013 hit-and-run gathered for a roadside vigil Thursday evening to honor her memory, her mother said the heartache and pain is still raw, knowing that the person who hit her kindhearted and caring daughter never stopped. 

Haley Smith, 15, was struck by a car on Kenton Morrison Road, just south of State Road 16, in St. Augustine three years ago -- just three weeks before her 16th birthday.

Jo-Lee Manning, Haley's mother, said her daughter was walking home from Publix with some friends on the evening of Nov. 17, 2013, when the tragedy occurred. 

"When they had got to the pole there, they had crossed over and were walking on the shoulder of the road and soon after that she was hit," Manning said.

Haley was rushed to the hospital, where she died. But Manning said her daughter's enormous personality still lives on. 

"Just full of life, laughter. She could brighten up a room and she made everyone feel like she was their best friend," Manning said.

On the third anniversary of her death, family, friends and the St. Augustine community gathered to remember the beautiful young girl who was the light in so many people's lives. 

"It's incredible. I guess one of the joys of living in St. Augustine is that it's a very loving community. A lot of these people I didn't know until after Haley got killed," Manning said. 

Sadly, yet thankfully, her daughter's death has now connected Manning to other families stricken with grief, like the family of 16-year-old Dalton Kuhn, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash last month in St. Augustine. 

"His family put all the Christmas stuff out for us," Manning said. "It's horrible to meet families that way. We would much rather meet them under different circumstances, but we have to draw strength from each other and share the knowledge that, unfortunately, we have grown to know."

Though she knows the pain won't come to an end, Manning will not stop fighting to find the driver and refuses give up hope that an arrest will be made in her daughter's death. 

"It's different. It's not something a parent should have to go through, not knowing, not knowing why," she said. 

Detectives told Manning that they believe the driver who struck Haley may have told one other person. She has a message for both of them. 

"I would ask that they come forward. We're not out for vengeance. We just want to understand why. How could they have hit her and leave?"

Another question that still weighs heavily on the mother is why there have been no safety measures put in place in the heavily walked area where her daughter was killed. 

"There's been no changes. There's been no lights added. The sidewalk is still not finished," Manning said. "Especially in St. Johns County, we still have children being killed in hit-and-runs."

Anyone with information on any aspect of the case is asked to contact the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office or anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS.