Nassau County man convicted in wrong-way crash that killed young couple, unborn child

Ryan Kennedy, Bailey McKnight, her unborn son died in 2018 head-on collision

VIDEO: A jury convicted a Nassau County man of DUI manslaughter and other charges in a crash that killed a young couple and their unborn child.

BRYCEVILLE, Fla. – A jury on Wednesday convicted a Nassau County man of DUI manslaughter and other charges in a crash that killed a young couple and their unborn child.

Shawn Blitchington, 48, faces up to a 90-year prison sentence.

Investigators determined he was driving the wrong way on US 301 in Bryceville in July of 2018 when he hit the car that 21-year-old Ryan Kennedy and 22-year-old Bailey McKnight were in. McKnight was eight months pregnant.

Kennedy, McKnight and her unborn child died at the scene. McKnight left behind a 3-year-old son, who was not with the couple at the time of the crash.

Three crosses have been placed at the crash site in their memory.

Memorial at scene of crash.

“He was my only child,” said Kennedy’s mother, Susy. “It was going to be my only grandchild.”

“Bailey was my only living child,” said McKnight’s mother, Misty. “I had one other (child) that I had lost prior. She was the oldest. They were born two-and-a-half years apart and died two-and-a-half years apart.”

The two mothers were going to be grandparents as the couple was expecting a baby boy, Lawson, in just a month. Instead, they’re bound by tragedy.

“When I got out of the car, I pretty much knew that it was them,” Misty McKnight said, noting that the crash it happened around the corner from her home, where the couple also lived. “It was 15 seconds from our road. Fifteen more seconds, she would’ve turn left onto our dirt road.”

They were heading home from Kennedy’s birthday dinner -- he turned 21 that day.

Blitchington, investigators said, fled the scene, leaving his vehicle behind. He was hiding for hours in a nearby ditch until deputies found and arrested him.

Nearly three years later, a jury in Nassau County has found Blitchington guilty. He’s scheduled to be sentenced July 7. Records show he wasn’t allowed to be driving before this crash as he had five driving under the influence arrests and a revoked license.

Documents show:

  • Blitchington was convicted after pleading no contest to a DUI charge stemming from a February 2002 arrest in Duval County. He received probation.
  • Blitchington entered the same plea after his January 2003 arrest for DUI and was sentenced to probation in that case.
  • Charged in December 2004 with DUI in Nassau County, Blitchington was convicted after pleading no contest and got probation.
  • Blitchington was charged with DUI, driving without a valid license and refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test in October 2008 in Nassau County. The DUI was reduced to reckless driving.
  • Blitchington was found guilty of DUI after pleading no contest to a November 2011 charge in Nassau County and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Shawn Blitchington

“I just need to know that he’s going to prison for a very long time so that he cannot ever do this again,” Susy Kennedy said. “He denied it the whole time in court. He just wouldn’t take accountability for it.”

The two families hope others listen and make the right choice to not drive drunk.

“It’s unnecessary,” Misty McKnight said. “I’m all for somebody going and having a good time, but you need to have a designated driver. Or have Uber in your phone.”

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.