‘I was robbed of saying goodbye’: Mom still looking for answers 1 year after son’s death

CHRISTINA.KELSO@STAUGUSTINE.COM On February 25, 2017, the day that would have been Dalton Kuhn’s seventeenth birthday, his mother Wendy Kuhn, from left, cousin Desiree Manucy, and grandmother Sandra Jones stand together on the side of State Road 312 at a family demonstration appealing for answers in the teen’s October 2016 death. Investigators with the St. Augustine Police Department believe the teen was hit by a truck while he walked or skateboarded along the side of the highway. The person responsible did not stop and has not come forward.

On Tuesday evening, Wendy Kuhn, along with a group of friends and family, will make a trip Kuhn regularly makes to a roadside memorial along State Road 312.

 

Near there, they will release lighted sky lanterns to mark the anniversary of the death of Kuhn’s son.

“I go every day,” Kuhn told The Record on Friday.

It is near that memorial, just off the westbound lanes before they climb the bridge off of Anastasia Island, that authorities found the body of 16-year-old Dalton Kuhn on the morning of Oct. 11, 2016.

“I was robbed of saying goodbye,” Kuhn said, discussing why she visits the memorial each day. “I feel like I am saying what I couldn’t say then.”

Investigators with the St. Augustine Police Department believe the teen was hit by a truck while he walked or skateboarded along the side of the highway. The person responsible did not stop and has not come forward.

“We suspect it happened in the late night of Oct. 10,” Assistant Police Chief Anthony Cuthbert said Friday.

Cuthbert said authorities have received more than 60 tips related to the case and were able to recover some evidence at the scene that leads them to believe the teen was struck by a white Chevy 2500 diesel pickup from one of the model years between 2003 and 2006.

They’ve yet to find that truck, but evidence and leads have helped them develop a person of interest.

“We are looking at somebody,” he said.

Cuthbert said they are working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to continue to analyze evidence — a process that can be lengthy — and are working to follow up on any additional leads.

“No stone or crime tip is going unturned,” he said.

Kuhn said she is hopeful police can either gather enough evidence to make an arrest, or the person responsible just comes forward to accept responsibility.

That, she said, would be the best outcome, as it would likely spare her family the pain of going through a trial, which would probably include disturbing testimony and troubling photos from the scene.

“I don’t want my kids to see that,” she said.

Kuhn insists she is not set on vengeance, but does want to see the person responsible demonstrate, by his or her actions, that her son’s life was taken and pain has been caused by the decision to not come forward.

“I want the person to be accountable and acknowledge that his life meant something,” she said.

“Accidents happened and it’s what you do with it that ultimately hurts a family,” she added. “I want that person to say, ‘I made a mistake.’”

She acknowledges that if someone does accept responsibility, there will likely be time served behind bars, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

“I want there to be something good that comes out of this,” she said.

She said she would like the person responsible to consider the possibility that he or she could eventually teach others about the ramifications — in the form of increased penalties — of not stopping after hitting someone. That, Kuhn said, may spare another family the pain of what she has gone through this past year.

In addition, Kuhn said, she would like her son’s death to serve as a reminder to the officials of the city of St. Augustine and the county that there is a severe shortage of bike trails and even sidewalks in the area.

“You go to Palm Coast, there’s all kinds of bike trails and sidewalks to keep kids safe,” she said. “That’s a big message I want the county and city to hear.”

Kuhn said she would like Tuesday’s gathering to send that message, but also keep the memory of her son’s case fresh in everyone’s minds.

Cuthbert said the renewed attention could possibly even bring in a new lead or spark a memory from someone who was in the area the night the teen was hit.

“We think there’s somebody out there that knows something,” he said. “Nothing’s too small, even if it’s the littlest thing, please come forward and let us know.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Detective Sergeant Jason Etheredge at 825-1092. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 888-277-8477.

 

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