Verdict expected this week for man accused of running over two kids

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CANTONMENT, Fla. (WKRG) – A verdict is expected Thursday for the man accused of leaving the scene after running over two kids in a Cantonment neighborhood.

The jury has been hearing witness testimony this week. Robert Etheridge was charged with leaving the scene of an accident involving death and leaving the scene involving injury.

13-year-old Rylee Simmons passed away at a hospital, but Hailey Locke survived and testified in court.

They were best friends hanging out together when a Ford Escape ran them over on April 6, 2020, right outside of the Lakes of Carrington subdivision on West Quintette Road.

Hailey’s mother said her daughter is being a voice for her friend to get the justice he deserves.

Troopers say Etheridge drove home that night and called 911 first reporting he hit a deer then saying he may have hit someone.

Marks on the road showed the driver slammed on the brakes. Florida Highway Patrol says the area is well lit. “The last six months it’s like there’s more and more invisible pedestrians out there,” he said to troopers. He also said he was distracted by an event at a nearby church, but the church said they had nothing going on that night, according to the arrest report.

If convicted, Etheridge could face more than 30 years in prison.

Closing arguments begin Thursday morning followed by jury deliberation. Stay with WKRG News 5 for updates.

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