Originally created 04/21/06

Hit-and-run death robs mom of closure



BLACKVILLE, S.C. - Jasmine Brown loved being a cheerleader.

The best day in the vivacious 13-year-old's life was the day she made her school's squad, said her mother, Tabitha Brown.

Bursting with excitement, she ran up and said, "Mama! I made the cheerleading squad!" Ms. Brown recently recalled.

Jasmine was on the team for one year.

She died one year ago today, struck and killed by a car while standing on the shoulder of South Carolina Highway 3 in Barnwell County.

The driver of the car that hit her fled and has never been found.

Devastated by her daughter's death, Ms. Brown moved her family to Orangeburg County. By fleeing and not stopping, she said, the driver took the family's chance for closure. Now they just have unanswered questions.

"I just want to know why they didn't stop," Ms. Brown said. "I don't think they meant to do it."

The driver was not speeding when he or she hit Jasmine, said Lance Cpl. Bryan McDougald, a spokesman for the South Carolina Highway Patrol.

The agency's investigation shows that the driver was not exceeding the posted 55 mph limit.

The driver rounded a curve on S.C. Highway 3, went off the side of the road and hit Jasmine, who was walking back to her mother's truck after they'd retrieved a piece of furniture that had fallen off.

In the year since Jasmine's death, investigators have followed leads across South Carolina and out of state, Lance Cpl. McDougald said.

They've talked to body repair shops, salvage yards and other automotive businesses trying to find the car that hit Jasmine. Authorities believe they are looking for a burgundy Ford Crown Victoria, possibly a model year from 1992 to 1997. It probably had damage to the front right end.

But until more evidence or new information surfaces, Lance Cpl. McDougald said, the investigation might be at a standstill.

"Someone out there knows something," he said. "If we could get to the vehicle, we'd have a very good chance of nailing this down."

If found, the driver could face a number of charges, including leaving the scene of an accident involving a death and failure to render aid.

The solicitor's office would decide what charges to file, Lance Cpl. McDougald said.

Jasmine's death is one of seven unsolved hit-and-run fatalities in South Carolina dating back to June 2004. Lance Cpl. McDougald said that, compared with traffic fatalities, unsolved hit-and-runs are a low percentage, but "one is too many."

Drivers involved in hit-and-runs can panic, Lance Cpl. McDougald said, or they could have health problems that caused the wreck.

But in his experience, he said, many times "the reason people leave the scene is because they're hiding a bigger problem."

That could be because they already have warrants out for their arrest, or they don't have insurance or a driver's license. Or maybe they've been drinking, he said.

The highway patrol, Lance Cpl. McDougald said, just wants to solve the case and bring Jasmine's killer to justice.

Jasmine was buried in Hope Memorial Park Cemetery in Barnwell County.

The driver must not have been paying attention, Ms. Brown said, and she speculates that he or she likely wouldn't even serve jail time.

"They didn't murder her," she said. "They just hit her by accident."

But not stopping is inexcusable, Ms. Brown said.

"We just want some closure."

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.

HOW YOU CAN HELP


Anyone with information about the person who struck and killed Jasmine Brown, 13, on April 21, 2005, should contact the South Carolina Highway Patrol at (800) 768-1504 or via e-mail at hpheadquarters@schp.org.



REMEMBERING JASMINE


A candlelight vigil has been planned for 6 p.m. on April 21 in Jasmine's memory. It is scheduled to be held at the school she attended, Blackville-Hilda Junior High in Barnwell County.



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