110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
14-year-old dies from her injuries
By Jen Horton
posted Mar 19, 2012 - 10:54:22am
UPDATED 3:16 p.m.:
Kim Montes, public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol reported that Troopers have taken a Gold 2004 Toyota Corolla to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab to have evidence processed off of the vehicle.
The vehicle was located in Pierson yesterday after the 49-year-old female owner contacted FHP.
Troopers continue the investigation and the 49-year-old owner is a person of interest. At this time, FHP has not identified a driver.
Montes said Troopers feel confident this is the vehicle that struck Julianne Hobbs and Rachael Russell.
At this time this is the only updated information that is being released.
Two 911 tapes were released from March 17, the night a driver hit two 14-year-old girls on South Spring Garden Avenue, in DeLand, and left them there. Rachel Russell survived, but Juliana Hobbs died.
Kim Montes, public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol, confirmed that a 49-year-old DeLand woman called the police yesterday because her car was not at her home. The woman gave FHP the location of the vehicle, a 2004 Toyota four-door sedan. FHP has impounded the vehicle.
Click on the links below to listen to tapes.
Elizabeth Hoefler lives two homes away from where the two girls were hit. Her 18-year-old daughter made one of the 911 calls, and tried to resuscitate Juliana Hobbs.
Elizabeth Hoefler had had pizza delivered to her family Saturday night, March 17. She was in her home on South Spring Garden Avenue with the windows open.
"I heard this car, and it did a total acceleration," Hoefler said. "Then, bam!. There were no brakes, no screeching."
She told her husband she thought somebody just hit something. Hoefler thought it was perhaps a mailbox, or a speeder hitting an animal.
"He [her husband] ran out, and said it wasn't our mailbox," she said.
Elizabeth Hoefler said a pickup truck with two men had stopped in the road and were yelling "Stop! Stop!"
Hoefler saw a silhouette, and thought it might have been a dog, then she saw the outline of a tennis shoe. It was Juliana's shoe.
"I went running up there. I could see Rachel. She was screaming 'They hit us! They aimed for us!'"
Hoefler said she held Rachel while her husband and daughter tried to perform CPR on Juliana.
"Juliana never moved," Hoefler said.
Hoefler left to get Rachel's father, just three houses away.
Rachel said the drivers hit the girls on purpose. Hoefler said from what she heard, she believes her.
"There was absolutely no screeching of tires, no brakes, just a total acceleration," Hoefler said.
Anyone with information about the accident should call FHP at 407-737-2213.
A 14-year-old girl stepped up to talk about the accident that injured her and killed her best friend.
She pleaded with the community to come forward if they have information about who hit two middle-school girls, and then left them bleeding in the dirt on the side of South Spring Garden Avenue near DeLand.
Juliana Hobbs and Rachel Russell have been best friends since they were 6 years old. They were both students at Southwestern Middle School.
Juliana and Rachel were just a few houses away from Rachel's home when they were struck by a vehicle that sped away, around 9:35 p.m. Saturday, March 17. Juliana died from her injuries.
Rachel talked about her friend, and shared her favorite memory.
"I remember when I was really little, we were swimming in her pool pretending to be mermaids," Rachel said. "And her sister spun us around. It was really fun."
"She was just her own person, you know," Rachel continued. "She was a really good friend. "
She recalled the night of the accident as well as she could.
The girls were heading home, and were crossing the intersection of West Beresford Avenue and State Road 15A; they were on foot, traveling west.
A car was waiting at the red light in a southbound lane of State Road 15A. Rachel could not describe the car. She said there appeared to be more than one person, but the windows were tinted.
The driver, a male, perhaps in his late teens or early 20s, cracked the window and yelled at the girls.
"They were screaming stuff at us," Rachel said. "We just kept walking."
The girls finished crossing the street, and turned onto South Spring Garden, where Rachel lives.
The back door of the car opened, and a girl or young woman yelled at them, Rachel said.
The car made a right-hand turn from State Road 15A onto West Beresford. Rachel said that she did not see the car turn around, but Juliana told her — before they were hit — that the car turned behind Dayspring Community Church.
"They were behind us, and they turned on their high beams," Rachel said. "It was kind of creepy. We got out of the road and into my neighbor's yard, in the grass. We were afraid they were going to kidnap us or something."
It didn't occur to the girls, Rachel said, that they were about to be run down by the car, from behind.
"I just heard an engine," Rachel said. "Then I was in the air."
She lost consciousness but came to a few minutes later, and didn't see Juliana. Rachel had been thrown through the neighbor's yard by the impact. At first she thought her friend had run for help.
"Then I saw her laying there in the street with blood all around her," Rachel said. "I went over to her, and I started crying and screaming for help."
The driver was gone. A neighbor called the police.
Juliana was airlifted to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Rachel would never see her friend alive again.
Rachel was taken by ambulance to Halifax Health Medical Center. She said she was released after receiving three stitches to her forehead. Rachel also said a vertebra in her neck was chipped, and there were bruises and sprains on her legs.
Her father, Jeff Russell, said his daughter is lucky to be alive.
"Thank God she was in the grass," he said.
His daughter was hit so forcefully that Jeff Russell said he was digging dirt out of his daughter's ears, her nose and her mouth.
Someone, he said, knows the truth.
"There was more than one person in that car," he said. "Somebody needs to talk."
Plus, he said, there will be damage to the car.
Rachel Russell believes that at a minimum, the windshield of the car should be shattered.
"There was glass from the windshield all in my hair," she said.
She, too, wants information, and justice for her friend.
"This was on purpose," Rachel Russell said. "Please, look for damage on the car. Help us find the car."
Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Kim Montes said state troopers investigating the crash are still trying to determine whether or not the crash was intentional.
"We have no description of a vehicle other than the vehicle may have front-end damage and may have windshield damage," Montes said.
Anyone with any information should contact the FHP at 407-737-2213.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Jen Horton, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!