JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a weeklong trial, Kelley Permenter was convicted Friday of DUI manslaughter and two other charges in the death of 12-year-old Hunter Cope.
Hunter's family has waited two years for justice. Police said Permenter hit and killed the boy as he was in a crosswalk at the intersection of Wonderwood Connector and A1A while walking to Mayport Middle School in March 2017.
Investigators found Permenter had alcohol and cocaine in her system at the time. The defense attorney didn't contest that Permenter was impaired, but claimed no driver could have avoided hitting the boy.
"Hunter Cope died because he stepped into the path of oncoming traffic," attorney Eric Friday said.
The jury of four women and two men took less than two hours to find Permenter guilty of the DUI manslaughter charges, as well as DUI with property damage and leaving the scene of a crash with property damage.
"She got what she deserved," Hunter's mother, Crystal Clark, said after the verdict, adding that it doesn't mean the family will ever have closure.
Permenter, who has been out on bond awaiting trial for the last two years, was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom. She faces 15 years in prison or longer when she is sentenced Nov. 25.
"It felt great to hear those handcuffs get on her arms today," Clark told News4Jax at a vigil Friday night after the verdict. "It does make me feel a lot better to know that she is getting what she deserves."
Loved ones of Hunter lit candles at the crash site, where there has been a memorial since the boy was struck and killed March 6, 2017.
Family and friends said they plan to make sure Hunter's memory lives on forever. Hunter's friend, Luke Shepherd, said he's hanging on to the hat Hunter gave him weeks before his death.
"I love him and I'm never going to forget him," Shepherd said.
Hunter's mother said she hopes her son's death will be a wake-up call for drivers.
"Kids do walk to school right here, every morning, Monday through Friday, every afternoon, and just to slow down and don't drink and drive," she said.
Hunter's heart was donated to help save someone else's life. His loved ones are glad his heart will truly live on.