Video: Apologies for hit-and-run

updated 4/6/2004 2:04:36 PM ET 2004-04-06T18:04:36

A schoolteacher stepped forward Monday and admitted she was the hit-and-run driver who apparently struck four children as they crossed the street. Two of the youngsters died.

In an apology addressed to the children’s mother, 28-year-old Jennifer Porter said at a news conference: “I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain. I know there is nothing I can do to bring your precious sons back.”

Her lawyer, Barry Cohen, said Porter was too scared to stop after the accident last Wednesday. “No one knows how he or she will react in the face of what Jennifer was faced with,” Cohen said, adding Porter was “frightened beyond imagination.”

The lawyer identified Porter as the driver of the Toyota Echo that police said ran down the children. He declined to answer other questions.

Porter was not immediately charged.

“We still have to prove it,” sheriff’s spokesman Rod Reder said. “The Echo has some obvious damage to it, but we have to prove what it hit. We have a lot of forensics to do.”

Authorities have said it was possible the children were struck by two cars, and they are looking for the other vehicle.

Bryant Wilkins, 13, and his 3-year-old brother, Durentae Caldwell, were killed in the accident, which also injured their sister, Aquina Wilkins, 8, and brother, LaJuan Davis, 2.

The children’s mother, Malissa Wilkins, does not have a listed telephone number and could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

According to Cohen, the accident happened as Porter was on her way home from an elementary school in Tampa where she teaches dance. After she contacted his office, he told authorities. Cohen said Porter will talk to investigators “just as soon as she is able to do so.”

Porter was joined by her parents and younger sister at the news conference. She did not answer questions and kept her eyes downcast during the meeting with reporters.

On Saturday, Porter’s parents went to the children’s home to offer their condolences, Cohen said, but a family friend told them it was not the appropriate time to meet with the grieving mother.

Hillsborough School District spokesman Mark Hart said Porter will probably be placed on paid leave, and if she is charged, district officials will recommend suspension without pay.

“Many of the children took it very hard and there were a lot of tears and expressions of sadness and they will miss her,” Hart said. Porter had just earned her teaching credentials last summer.

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