READING, Pa. - A new law, set to take effect next month, is designed to close the loophole against drivers involved in deadly hit-and-run accidents.
The law upgrades the crime from a third-degree offense to a second-degree felony. It's designed to hold drivers more accountable, but one mother who lost her daughter in a hit-and-run said it's too little too late.
"As much as I try to forget, I can't, and people say the more time goes, time heals all wounds. It just gets harder," said Gabriella Roman, whose 3-year-old daughter was killed in Reading.
It's been two months since Roman last saw her daughter alive. A mound of stuffed animals, flowers and candles still sits on the sidewalk on Cotton Street, near the area where police said Ja-Lexy Bobet was run over by a hit-and-run driver in the city.
On June 14, Justin Taylor, 18, of Wernersville, blew through a stop sign, rammed into Ja-Lexy and then sped off, said police.
"I'm more hurt than angry. I'm more hurt because he seen my daughter the way she was. Why didn't you just stop and see if she was ok? She wasn't a deer. She was a human," said Roman.
Now, it's the drivers being hit with a stiffer penalty. On September 4, the law will increase the maximum sentence for a fatal hit-and-run to 10 years in prison. That's up from the current seven years.
"We want to stop people from leaving the scene of an accident," said Berks County District Attorney John Adams.
In 2011, Adams said 18 cases were reported of people leaving the scene of an accident in Berks. So far, there have been 12 this year.
"This penalty has now been increased, which will hopefully send a message to the general public that when you have an accident, you have to stay at the scene," said Adams.
It's a message Roman is happy to hear, but one she said won't help bring any closure.
"I'm not getting my daughter back, and every hit-and-run parent is not getting their kids back," said Roman.
If convicted, Taylor, the driver charged in Roman's daughter death, will not face a stiffer penalty since the accident happened before the law takes effect.
His preliminary hearing is scheduled for later this month.
Allentown, PA 18102