SUV driver arrested in crash that killed 12-year-old

Hunter Cope hit, killed in March while walking to Mayport Middle School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The driver of an SUV that police said hit and killed a 12-year-old boy who was walking to school in March was arrested Monday.

Kelley Permenter turned herself in on charges of DUI manslaughter and DUI property damage, sources told News4Jax. 

Hunter Cope was fatally struck March 6 at the intersection of Wonderwood Connector and A1A. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said an SUV continued through a yellow light at the intersection about 8:30 a.m., hitting Cope, who was walking with five other children.

The arrest report said Permenter, who stayed at the scene, had used alcohol and cocaine. 

News4Jax has also obtained surveillance video of a minor hit-and-run crash that took place in the drive-thru of a restaurant minutes before Hunter was killed.

"Had she stayed at the hit-and-run, it would be no doubt that Hunter Cope would be here," said Dan Iracki, one of the civil attorneys representing Hunter's family. "It was testimony from witnesses who called us that we then forwarded on to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that led to the discovery of a video in a drive-thru station where this woman caused the crash, argued and the fled the scene moments before crashing into this young child."

The family's attorneys -- Iracki, who's a partner at Coker Law Firm, and Janine Kirch -- have been fighting for a compensation that could never be enough. Though the arrest can't bring Hunter back, they hope it will start providing some closure for his mother. 

"Speaking as a former prosecutor, there is no amount of prison time or anything like that, that the justice system can deliver that's going to absolve her of all her pain and grief. Closure is what that will provide for her and, hopefully, in the end, whatever the result may be, she will have some closure. But there's nothing the justice system can do that is going to make up for her loss of her 12-year-old son," Kirch said.

Iracki and Kirch said they are assisting with the criminal prosecution in any way that they can, but the biggest message is that drivers need to slow down in school zones.

News4Jax found that Permenter has nine citations in Duval County on her driving record -- four for speeding, one each for running a stop sign, disregarding a traffic signal, careless driving, no proof of insurance and loud noises coming from her vehicle.

Permenter was booked Monday afternoon into the Duval County Jail. She will make her first appearance in court Tuesday morning.