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After testimony on how 12-year-old died, state rests in DUI manslaughter trial

Kelley Permenter's defense team admitted she had alcohol, cocaine in her system

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Prosecutors rested their case Thursday in the DUI manslaughter trial of Kelley Permenter, the 37-year-old woman accused of hitting and killing 12-year-old Hunter Cope as he walked to school in 2017.

Permenter's defense attorney had conceded that she was drinking and had cocaine in her system, but claimed that no driver could have stopped in time to avoid hitting the boy in the crosswalk at A1A and Wonderwood Drive.

Prosecutors said Permenter struck Hunter moments after and not far from where she had been involved in a hit-and-run crash in the parking lot of the A1A Food Store.

The state's final witness was Associate Medical Examiner Robert Pfalzgraf, who conducted the autopsy of Hunter. 

Pfalzgraf said the 65-pound boy had dozens of external and internal issues, but a neck injury was the cause of death.

“His head was internally dislocated from his neck. He also had serious brain injuries," Pfalzgraf said. "If a person has that, they will never wake up."

Hunter's heart was donated after his death so another person's life could be saved.

After the state rested, Permenter’s attorney asked the judge to dismiss the DUI manslaughter charge, saying the state had not met the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That motion was denied.

The defense called several witnesses, including an accident reconstructionist and a Jacksonville police officer before it also rested. Closing arguments are set for Friday morning, then the case will go to the jury.