Suspect in Fatal Hit-and-Run Arrested After Fleeing to Body Shop
Authorities were informed when the body shop owner realized the car in his shop could be the one linked to a fatal hit-and-run.
Thirty-five-year-old Sherri Ward of Middleburg, Florida was arrested earlier this week in connection with a fatal hit-and-run that occurred in January of 2017, which killed 25-year-old Jazmin Rodriguez.
Rodriguez suffered tire problems while driving her black Kia on Old St. Augustine Road in Jacksonville, Florida in the early hours of January 14, 2017, according to Action News Jax of Jacksonville. While tending to her car around 2:30 a.m., she was struck by a silver SUV that fled south on Interstate 95, according to information she shared with first responders, with evidence found at the scene suggesting a 2009-2011 Honda Pilot. Rodriguez was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where she passed away from her injuries, leaving behind a seven-year-old son.
Shortly after the accident, Ward delivered a silver 2009 Honda Pilot to a body shop nearby, telling the shop's owner she had hit a construction barrel. This statement was incongruent with the story presented to one of Ward's friends, whom Ward told of hitting a guardrail. Damage to the vehicle, too, suggested otherwise according to the shop's owner, who reported black paint scrapes and other damage that did not resemble that which would be taken in a collision with a construction barrel.
The shop's owner alerted law enforcement after seeing a news report on the accident, suspecting his customer could be responsible for the hit-and-run. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office investigated and found cell tower data that showed Ward was in the area at the time of the accident, proving she did in fact travel south on Interstate 95 around that time.
Ward has been charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Regardless of whether Ward is guilty, this ties into a severe spike in fatal traffic accidents between pedestrians and vehicles since 2009, to the tune of 46 percent. A contributor to this rise is an increase in tall, heavy vehicles such as SUVs and crossovers that are both harder to stop and more likely to inflict chest and head injuries on pedestrians.
Of course, traffic accidents are less attributable to vehicle types and more down to irresponsible driving, be it distracted, intoxicated, or simply with too much speed, as some other Florida residents discovered, having allegedly run down a mother and daughter while reportedly street racing.
Driving is a responsibility that places your own and others' lives in your hands. We must all take it seriously.