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Witnesses at woman's DUI trial recall crash that killed 12-year-old

Kelley Permenter charged with DUI manslaughter in death of Hunter Cope

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prosecutors told the jury hearing the DUI manslaughter trial of a 37-year-old woman that she had alcohol and cocaine in her system when she struck and killed a 12-year-old boy who was walking to school in Atlantic Beach more than two years ago.

Police said Kelley Permenter hit Hunter Cope as he was in the crosswalk at A1A and Wonderwood Drive in March 2017.

The jury was seated Monday and opening statements began Tuesday.

Permenter’s lawyer conceded that she was driving under the influence but stressed no one could have avoided hitting the boy when he darted out into the road.

Witnesses shed tears as they recounted seeing the crash and the aftermath.

"It happened so fast. All I saw (was) a flash of black and a little boy struck and his body flew across the entire intersection," witness Krista Foisy testified.

"He was pretty broken, not conscious," witness Patricia Sheppard said. "Then a nurse and some people in the military took over."

"It was a child and I immediately threw my car in park and called 911," witness Myla Osborne Brunson said. "Her (Permenter's) emotions seemed fake and forced, as if she was not crying real tears and her eyes seemed empty."

Another witnesses described how Permenter acted after the crash.

"She stumbled out of the car then doubled over when she realized what she had done," Stacia Arnold said.

One woman testified that Permenter's black SUV cut her off near that intersection. She said she didn't call police until later in the day when she heard there was a fatal accident.

Months after Permenter was charged, her attorney asked the court to dismiss the charges that Permenter was impaired and was speeding -- 53 in a 45 mph zone. Her attorney said that Hunter stepped in front of her SUV and no one would have been able to avoid hitting him, impaired or not.

The judge denied the motion. Permenter was allowed to remain out of jail on bond while awaiting trial.

A memorial to Hunter remains at the scene of the crash. His family has pushed to make that area safer.

The Florida Department of Transportation had made several changes, including enhanced crosswalks, countdown pedestrian signals and handicap accessible ramps added at several intersections along Wonderwood Drive.


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Ashley Spicer

Lifetime Floridian anchors weekends and reports weekdays on issues in Nassau and Baker counties and beyond.

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